Obama, Trudeau still fighting over Canada’s climate policies

As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week at an event in Boston, he is eager to do more business in the U.S. and hopes to help remove U.S. “interference in our energy…

Obama, Trudeau still fighting over Canada’s climate policies

As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week at an event in Boston, he is eager to do more business in the U.S. and hopes to help remove U.S. “interference in our energy markets” through taking advantage of America’s “exciting entrepreneurial energy.”

His favorite example of the U.S. supporting Canada’s energy sector was the Export-Import Bank, which Trudeau said has been “a major facilitator of Canadian energy exports to the United States.” The bank, supported by U.S. taxpayer money, has been used to finance some controversial U.S. fossil fuel projects.

But with Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama also on the verge of announcing a broader treaty on climate change, what progress Canada makes on climate change will be watched carefully.

When they sat down to talk about climate change, it turned out there’s not a whole lot of energy between them. A Canadian business group, Canadians for Clean Prosperity, said the TPP remains in question after the Obama administration failed to qualify the pact, which was signed only a few weeks ago.

But the Harper administration’s climate change policies prompted Obama to strongly criticize the trade deal as “not good enough” on its climate change obligations.

With the 10-year-old agreement taking on special significance, it’s a surprise that almost half the climate ministers attending in Bali aren’t here from Canada or the United States.

The idea of a climate pact has brought together several disparate power players, including some of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters.

The No. 1 emitter, China, has to promote the idea of a pact as a key aspect of its climate policy, a major reason it sends its top official for climate change talks, Xie Zhenhua, to meet with the other leaders here. The second biggest emitter, the United States, is an enthusiastic partner because the pact “will be a victory for development,” a top U.S. diplomat said last week. The third biggest emitter, India, wants to join the accord partly out of concern it will be left out.

The signatories include countries that depend on fossil fuels for their economies. Small island nations who are already struggling with climate change are critical.

“In the final analysis, I will admit I am afraid the TPP may not be in the best interest of the developing countries,” said Ramona Aropolo-Piesto, president of Suriname, one of the poorest countries in the world. “They, too, would want the same free-trade policies to be applied to them.”

European countries who import large amounts of oil from Iraq and Saudi Arabia have also lobbied hard for the pact to say it does not add costs to those governments.

“Trade agreements can be abused” to undermine policies that favor poor countries, said Kumi Naidoo, the CEO of Greenpeace International. “The implications of the TPP for new environmental laws and policies are far-reaching. But these measures have been imposed through the bureaucracy of governments, not through trade agreements.”

In Canada, which is a leading exporter of fossil fuels in the Western Hemisphere, the Trudeau government has done little to advance that country’s climate-change objectives. Canada will miss its United Nations greenhouse gas emissions-reduction target for 2020 even as U.S. emissions have likely decreased, Canadian officials acknowledged.

Trudeau’s failure to push for greater climate change action has disappointed environmental groups.

“We would have hoped that Trudeau, as a newly elected leader, would have been willing to consider very seriously the climate deal that was reached between the United States and China,” Jeff Rubin, the former chief economist of CIBC World Markets, said this week. “I have thought the deal was quite progressive, in terms of a commitment on pollution reduction.”

Asked what Trudeau has planned to make the country a cleaner place to live, his ministry said he will add significantly to Canada’s efforts to develop a more clean, sustainable energy sector.

Much will depend on whether Harper’s successor helps Canadians embrace new carbon-cutting policies as part of the new deal.

“I think Canada has a very high and hard-fought reputation for being a leader in the green economy,” Canadian MP Peter Julian said. “I’m optimistic that this is not going to slow Canada down at all.”

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