North America Launches a New Era of Clean Economic Growth

By Traver Kennedy, Chairman and CEO on July 19, 2016
Home  / Blog  /  North America Launches a New Era of Clean Economic Growth

U.S., Canada and Mexico pledge to generate half of their energy needs from zero-carbon sources by 2025

On June 29, during their regional summit in Ottawa, President Obama, Prime Minister Trudeau, and President Peña Nieto announced a historic clean energy goal for North America: to achieve 50% clean power generation by 2025. In their official statement, the three leaders stated, “We recognize that our highly integrated economies and energy systems afford a tremendous opportunity to harness growth in our continuing transition to a clean energy economy.”

In short, this huge geographic region—which comprises almost 9.5 million square miles (or 17 percent of the Earth’s total land mass) and has a combined economy in excess of $20 trillion USD—has realized that economic growth and sustainability go hand-in-hand. This commitment to work together to implement the Paris Agreement is being called the North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership.

North America from Space. NASA on The Commons [Public domain or No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Sustainability that leverages successful cooperation frameworks

There is a good reason to be optimistic about North America’s sustainability commitment. The United States, Canada, and Mexico can leverage a distinct advantage they have to make this pledge work: they know how to work together. For over 20-years, the three countries have cooperated on trade policies across the North American trade zone and are coming together once again to usher in a new era of sustainable economic trade across the region. A strong precedent of cooperation and collaboration in the context of such a comprehensive treaty bodes well for this aggressive 50% clean power generation pledge within a decade.

The North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership includes specific initiatives in the following areas:

  1. Advancing clean and secure energy

This first area concerns innovation. Specifically, the region plans to accelerate clean energy innovation, clean energy development and deployment, and energy efficiency. Their joint statement underscored the opportunity to bring about a “clean growth economy,” which they define as: “The development of current and future projects and policies to achieve this goal [that] will create thousands of clean jobs and support our vision for a clean growth economy.”

The partnership outlined several key areas for action to advance its clean power goals including:

  • Policies to scale up clean energy alternatives
  • Cross-border collaboration on energy transmission (including renewable energy)
  • A joint study on adding more renewables to the power grid
  • Trilateral collaboration on greening of government measures
  • Joint research and demonstration efforts to advance clean technologies in priority areas including electricity grids, energy storage, and advanced heating and cooling
  1. Driving down short-lived climate pollutants

This area refers to methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons that are significantly more potent than carbon dioxide. To achieve this important objective, the regional partnership has defined a clear path. Mexico will join Canada and the United States in reducing their methane emissions from the oil and gas sector (the world’s largest methane source) by 40% to 45% by 2025. Other key sectors for national methane reduction strategies include agriculture and waste management. In addition, the three countries have committed to “Significant national actions to reduce black carbon emissions in North America, and promote alternatives to highly polluting hydrofluorocarbons.” This goal is highly intertwined with the innovation objective and will require the close collaboration between government and industry in all three countries.

  1. Promoting clean and efficient transportation

The partnership recognizes the crucial role that transportation plays in a “clean growth economy.” Accordingly, the country leaders outlined “Joint action that will create clean jobs while reducing energy consumption, greenhouse gases and air pollution” for an integrated North American Transportation network—accounting not just for roads but for water and air modalities as well.

The countries committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from light- and heavy-duty vehicles by aligning fuel efficiency and GHG emission standards out to 2025. They also adopted carbon-neutral growth from international civil aviation from 2020 onwards and reinforced their commitment to reducing GHG from maritime shipping, which is among the most toxic polluters of all. Curtailing transportation GHG emissions is vital. Although North America’s population comprises only 7% of the global population, we operate 27% or more than 319 million of the world’s total road vehicles. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions accounting for 26% of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2014.”

Additional transportation measures include:

  • Accelerating the deployment of clean vehicles in government fleets
  • Collaborating with industry to encourage the adoption of clean vehicles
  • Establishing refueling corridors for clean vehicles
  • Aligning applicable regulations, codes and standards
  • Fostering clean technology research and development

These initiatives, if implemented, will result in an economic boom for a sector that impacts more jobs and touches everyday consumer lives.

  1. Protecting nature and advancing science

Half of the bird species of North America are threatened by climate change. If present climate trends continue, 314 species face potential dramatic declines in population as warmer temperatures push the birds out of their traditional ranges. Examples so close to our everyday lives, like the threat to birds, make it clear that regional conservation is central in North America, which is home to rich biodiversity in flora, fauna, and ocean life—including the Monarch butterfly, whose migration patterns cover half of Mexico, the entire United States, and southern Canada.

The North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership commits to “Work together to better integrate ocean observation systems, enhance early warning systems for natural disasters, and cooperate on marine protected areas…[while] advancing our understanding of climate change and climate resilience.” It also commits to working with indigenous communities and leaders to incorporate traditional knowledge of nature and natural resources into our decision-making.

  1. Showing global leadership in addressing climate change

The final part of the plan is to leverage the region’s reputation and leadership by demonstrating that climate change is an important and urgent issue that the three countries are ready to tackle. The joint statement clearly indicates, “Canada, the U.S., and Mexico will work together to implement the historic Paris Agreement (check our blog post on it here), supporting our goal to limit temperature rise this century to well below 2° C, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5° C.” Their statement also provides details on how: “As we implement our respective Nationally-Determined Contributions, we will cooperate on climate mitigation and adaptation, focusing in particular on highly integrated sectors, shared ecosystems, human health, and disaster risk-reduction efforts.” The countries pledged to promote “universal energy access and work together to address the challenges of energy security and integration” as well as their support for developing country partners “in their mitigation and adaptation efforts.”

Clean Economic Growth Without Compromise

The North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership, deemed “historical” by the three leaders, offers great news for our planet. As the countries implement their commitments, the region—which accounts for almost one-fifth of the world’s CO2 emissions—can demonstrate that sustainability can ride alongside existing international cooperation frameworks, leveraging the institutions already created, the partnerships between governments and industries that underlie these treatises, and the innovation that economic cooperation creates.

It is encouraging to see world leaders coming together in support of the Paris Agreement with concrete plans of action to achieve their vision to tackle climate change through innovation and cooperation. A central tenant underpinning a clean growth economy is a region, country, state or city’s access to no-compromise energy sources that can fuel their economy with clean and abundant energy at costs that can compete with the fossil fuels we have used in the past.

At Joi Scientific, we are working to make hydrogen fuel part of the innovation tools that leaders around the world can use to realize no-compromise economic growth while reducing their climate footprint. Our work on clean and affordable Hydrogen 2.0 has the potential to make a positive and a lasting impact that can help North America show to the world that ambitious sustainability goals no longer have to come with growth compromises.

 

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