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Jan Lee headshot

'Three Amigos' Canada, U.S. and Mexico Forge Clean Energy and Climate Goals

By Jan Lee

If anything good comes out of the climate change debate these days, it's the capacity to forge unlikely partnerships. Take, for example, the so-called Three Amigos Summit in Ottawa this week.

In what may be a first, the United States, Mexico and Canada announced yesterday that they will work together to meet a series of environmental, humanitarian and security goals that have long been of concern for the three countries. U.S. President Barack Obama joined Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at what is more formally being referred to as the North America Leaders' Summit.

Not surprisingly, at the top of the list is climate change and clean energy options.

"We find ourselves now in a moment where the alignment in terms of policy goals and focus on clean energy between our three countries is stronger than it has been in decades," said Brian Deese, senior advisor to President Obama, in a press announcement.

The agreement between the three countries includes a pledge to slash methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025, a goal Canada and the U.S. forged earlier this year. Mexico's decision to join the agreement is considered a significant accomplishment of the Leadership Summit.

Clean energy targets are next on the list. The three leaders agreed to work toward a goal of 50 percent clean energy by 2025. All three countries have seen steady progress in renewable energy sectors. Mexico's solar and wind sectors tripled in recent years, says Daniel Chavez, a partner in the Houston office of McDermott, Will and Emery, LLP. But the country is still working toward the 10-year goal of 35 percent of clean energy that it set in 2014.

An estimated 80 percent of Canada's power generation comes from green sources, largely due to the industries that dominate its coastal provinces like hydro-powerhouse British Columbia and windy Quebec. With the U.S. federal government's continuing, but often contentious, effort to reduce fossil fuel-based power consumption in the mix, North America's clean energy ratio stood at 37 percent last year.

And the three leaders plan to tackle other goals as well, some of which strike closer to the heart of travelers and residents along their countries' borders.

  • Broaden the scope and eligibility of the NEXUS program between the U.S. and Canada and the similar U.S.-Mexico entry program, Viajero Confiable.

  • Improve business online customs access.

  • Increase security measures to screen for foreign fugitives with ties to North America. A pilot plan is now in the works.

  • A financial commitment of $10 million to the United Nations Refugee Agency to assist with the displacement of migrants due to violence in areas like Iraq and Syria.

Environmental organizations largely applauded yesterday's announcements. World Resources Institute U.S. director, Sam Adams, said the commitments may help to incentivize more focus on renewable energy in the three countries.

"The bold pledge to power half of North America with clean electricity within 10 years sets a marker that should accelerate investment in renewable energy," Adams said on Wednesday. "The continent-wide goal to slash methane emissions 40 to 45 percent by 2025 represents one of the greatest near-term opportunities to slow global warming. Sharing a common vision for the future, these leaders recognize the importance of providing economic stability and greater climate security for the long term.”

Critics, while largely impressed with Wednesday's accomplishments, didn't hold back in suggesting ways the Three Amigos could improve the accords even further.

Greenpeace questioned why energy sources like nuclear and carbon capture were included in the clean energy mix, while Canada's Green Party leader challenged Trudeau to improve the country's clean energy commitment even further.

But it was Pembina Institute, an environmental research organization, that really summed up the accomplishments of this week. "When working together, North America can forge important progress on global issues," it said.  With an outgoing U.S. president and less than six months to go before the elections, that uncommon unity across borders may be more important than we realize when it comes to combating climate change.

Image credit: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau via Twitter

Jan Lee headshot

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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