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‘Three Amigos’ Urged to Collaborate on Climate Change, Decarbonization

A summit this week will bring U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto to Ottawa to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in what observers say is a unique opportunity to forge a continental climate response that includes a common approach to setting North American carbon prices.

“I believe you have alignment between these three nations in a way that we haven’t seen before,” said Pembina Institute analyst Erin Flanagan. So “how do we make the most of this time?

Pembina and five other environmental think tanks from all three North American countries called in advance of the summit for Mexico to join Canada and the U.S. in setting a goal of reducing methane emissions by 40 to 45% by 2025. The same report called for “harmonized” carbon pricing and a fossil fuel subsidy phaseout to accelerate a shift to clean energy.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress (CAP) and World Resources Institute, which also contributed to the report, called in a separate release for a common continental carbon “proxy” price. “More and more companies are using an internal carbon price to position themselves for success in future markets,” explained WRI’s Eliot Metzger. “They see that a shift toward low-carbon energy is already under way and inevitable.”

Governments should do the same, the two organizations argued. “The United States, Mexico, and Canada should apply a proxy price when, for example, they evaluate investments in—and permits for—energy infrastructure, such as export terminals and power plants,” CAP wrote in a release. “A proxy price could help determine whether potential projects will remain financially viable in—and whether they are consistent with—a future world with increasingly strict carbon limits.”

“Governments should also apply a proxy carbon price in decision-making regarding cross-border infrastructure, such as pipelines,” the groups added. “This is particularly relevant in North America given the current and future levels of energy integration.”

The Globe and Mail reports, meanwhile, that Mexico is also seeking American and Canadian investment to help it meet its clean energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. “The country has liberalized its energy sector, and is looking for foreign partners to help finance a renewable energy boom,” the Globe observes. As well, “several Mexican states have signalled their interest in joining the Western Climate Initiative, the California-Quebec carbon market that Ontario is in the process of joining.”

Writing in iPolitics, three other experts on the impacts of human-induced climate change called for the summit leaders to address “the need to better understand the continental-scale physics that are changing the climate connections between North America’s Arctic, the United States, and Mexico.”

Dr. Thomas F. Pedersen, Rafe Pomerance, and Ricardo Alvarez, respectively chair of the Canadian Climate Forum, the U.S. chair of a network of NGO scientists on Arctic climate issues, and an expert on the impacts of sea level rise and hurricanes in Mexico, noted that existing monitoring systems “limit the ability of scientists to define with high confidence the domino-effect relationships that span the North Pole to the Equator—like the interactions between the jet stream and sea ice.” They called for the leaders to expand climate monitoring, to “develop trilateral, cost-effective responses to climatic impacts,” and to enact “a collaborative framework that aligns and integrates decision-making to reduce fossil fuel consumption on a continental scale.”

The moment may be especially ripe for the so-called ‘Three Amigos’ summit to move more aggressively on climate, Flanagan suggested: Obama is looking for legacy accomplishments on climate; Peña Nieto has pushed through laws opening Mexico’s energy sector to more renewable contributions; and Trudeau has made restoring Canada’s international climate reputation a central goal of his government.