Energy ministers from Canada, the United States, and Mexico will sign a memorandum of understanding on climate change and energy collaboration today, following a day of meetings in Winnipeg Thursday.
“The emphasis will be on a ‘low-carbon future’ for North America,” CBC reports. “This essentially kickstarts the detailed, behind-the-scenes work needed for a continent-wide agreement that will enable all three countries to work together on clean energy and options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The deal, a renewal of an existing tripartite energy MOU, “could form the starting point for more far-reaching discussions on a continental clean energy agreement and climate change,” according to briefing notes to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr obtained by CBC under Access to Information. The notes refer to “repairing our relationship with our North American partners” on energy and environment.
The discussions between Carr, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and Mexican Energy Secretary Pedro Joachín Coldwell point to a significant shift in tone in the revised MOU, CBC notes: “For the first time since 2008, when the Keystone XL pipeline was proposed, the energy discussions between the U.S. and Canada are not dominated by pipelines.”
“For years, the American government has been trying to talk to Canada about clean energy, and unfortunately they kept hearing back about pipelines,” said Clean Energy Canada Senior Policy Advisor Clare Demerse. “It was a bit of a dialogue of the deaf.
“Now, we are finally catching up to where our allies are, and that will make the conversation and relationship a more effective one.”
She added that the deal could open up a big new market for Canadian renewable energy—including exports of hydro-, solar-, and wind-generated electricity, and electric vehicles. “All three countries manufacture cars. All three are thinking about the next generation of cars,” she told McDiarmid. “There is a lot they can do together to make sure, for example, you could drive an electric car anywhere on the continent and know you can charge it.”
Greenpeace climate campaigner Keith Stewart said a kind of “green NAFTA” is new territory for the three governments. “This is the kind of thing that has been done on trade,” he said. “It hasn’t been done on climate change. If this is a first step in that direction, it’s a good thing.”