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US-Canada climate statement tackles low-hanging climate change fruit

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Vancouver, BC, Coast Salish Territories. Environmental lawyers offered some cautious words of praise for the joint statement made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama. The lawyers, at the Vancouver-based West Coast Environmental Law Association, applauded several short-term initiatives in the agreement, while expressing concern that the two countries did not appear to recognize longer-term challenges of addressing climate change.

“Canada-U.S. commitments to reduce methane emissions, address airline emissions and protect Arctic communities are all very positive,” said Andrew Gage, head of West Coast’s Climate Change program. “However, tackling climate change and meeting our Paris commitments requires us to take steps now to, in the long-term, move us to a post-carbon economy.”

“We’re picking the low-hanging climate change fruit, but we need to be also building a ladder so that we can reach the difficult to reach fruit down the road.”

Positive commitments include:

  • Targets for reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas;
  • The development of a partnership to address the impacts of climate change on the Arctic and Arctic communities;
  • The development of analytic methods for assessing climate change impacts in the environmental assessment of major projects;
  • Working to set carbon standards for the aviation industry, a key source of greenhouse gas emissions that was not addressed in the Paris Agreement;
  • Recognizing and addressing the security implications of climate change;
  • Better integrating renewables into Canada-U.S. power grids;

However, while the Paris Agreement contemplates net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century, the Joint Statement:

  • Is less ambitious, aiming to develop strategies to achieve “low emissions” by “mid-century”;
  • Contemplates the expansion of “science-based” oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic (and presumably elsewhere) without recognizing that such expansion cannot be justified under current climate science.
  • Reiterates past promises to work together to reduce fossil fuel subsidies, but offers few details in contrast to other much more specific commitments made in the Statement.


For more information contact:

·        Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel – 250-412-9784