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Three Amigos make progress on climate commitments

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

07/13/2016

OTTAWA (CCN) — North American leaders are making progress on climate commitments but more needs to be done, Catholic and other climate-change advocacy groups said after the so-called “Three Amigos” summit in Ottawa.

Their comments came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and United States President Barak Obama on June 29. The meeting dealt with trade, human rights and other issues, but the centrepiece was the leaders’ statement on climate, “A North American Climate, Clean Energy and Environmental Partnership.”

The leaders reaffirmed a commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as they recognized “the urgent need to take action to combat climate change through innovation and deployment of low-carbon solutions.” Among several objectives by 2025, they hope to achieve 50 per cent clean power generation, a 40 per cent reduction in methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and significant growth in the use of clean vehicles.

“It’s a good first step,” said Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace research and advocacy officer Genevieve Talbot. “It is good to see all three of them are discussing a way out of the fossil fuel industry.”

Citizens for Public Justice senior policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn described the meetings as “a positive collaboration.” But she is looking for more.

“We’ve come off a long time of lots of commitments and little action to support them,” she said. “In terms of the framework and direction there’s a lot of great stuff in this agreement.

“I’m more curious than ever on how this plays out in terms of national action plans,” she said.

“As Christians we are called by God to love and care for all of the Earth and to respond to climate change as a human and ecological crisis.”

The leaders, however, could have made a stronger commitment toward carbon pricing, said some observers.

“Putting a price on carbon is a real critical piece of moving to Paris commitments, reducing greenhouse gases, and supporting the shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” said Munn-Venn.

Mark Cameron, executive director of Canadians for Clean Prosperity, was pleased to see Mexico, a developing nation, agree to abide by the same standards.

“I think most of the initiatives they talked about are positive,” he said. “Reducing methane emissions from oil and gas is a very low cost positive measure which will help clean up Canada’s oil and gas industry, something Canada and the United States had already indicated they were supporting.”

Talbot expressed concern about the term “clean energy.”

“It’s not the same as talking about renewable energy,” she said. “Clean energy includes nuclear and carbon capture technologies. We want to achieve, by 2050, 100 per cent renewable energy.” 

Cameron also said a movement toward clean energy could be beneficial for Canada.

“The commitment to have clean energy reach 50 per cent of electricity production in North America is a good opportunity for Canadian hydropower exports,” he said. “The U.S. would need significant hydro imports to meet that target. Renewables are not enough.”

Munn-Venn noted the document mentions at the very end a “just transition to a clean energy economy.”

Though this transition is not laid out, Munn-Venn said “the phrase just transition is important.”

“We need to make sure people who are employed in the oil and gas sectors, for example, aren’t the ones who alone carry the burden of transitioning away from fossil fuels,” she said. It also means being “supportive of communities that are already marginalized,” such as the Inuit, First Nations and “coastal communities seeing impacts from rising sea levels.”

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