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North America Should Unite Against Climate Change

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April 28, 2021

by Graeme C. Clark, Ambassador of Canada to Mexico

Last week our leaders met to tackle one of the great challenges of our time: how to limit emissions and planetary warming to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.  By enhancing our climate ambitions under the Paris Accord, we can also create good paying jobs, advance innovative technologies, and help vulnerable countries adapt to climate impacts.

The North American dimension of this is critical.  Canada applauds renewed U.S. leadership on climate change by inviting the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate as well as countries that are demonstrating strong and innovative climate action, or are especially vulnerable to climate impacts.

All three North American countries renewed their commitments, from ambitious emissions reductions targets by Canada and the US, to cleaner energy and reforestation efforts in Mexico. This is a critical year for climate action, and we must come forward with higher levels of ambition for reducing emissions, if we are to keep global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius. As friends and partners in an integrated economic space and a shared continental environment we are in this thing together in more ways than one.  Let me give you some examples.

First, we must leverage our renewed competitiveness under the T-MEC, sharing best practices and adopting best policies, we can truly “build back better”, as my Prime Minister regularly says.  This includes not only a green economic recovery, but longer term, sustainable, inclusive growth – so badly needed by our peoples following the setbacks of the ongoing pandemic.

It makes sense for us to lead, develop and innovate together on new technologies to improve our environmental stewardship and tackle the long term threat of climate change. We must move forward with new energy sources, renewables, water management, adaption and mitigation, and cleaner technologies in the production and use of fossil fuels, which will still be needed for some time to come. To do so, investors need a stable and predictable investment climate. In Mexico, Canada has some US$10.3 billion invested in the energy sector alone, including $4.1 billion in renewable energy.  This has created tens of thousands of well-paid jobs, community development projects, and significant tax revenues.

The T-MEC also ensures the protection of our environment while preventing Parties from weakening their respective environmental laws to attract trade or investment.  The parallel North American Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA) continues to advance environmental protection and economic sustainability amongst the Parties.  

Second, Canada and Mexico have strong bilateral environmental cooperation, directly and as a cross-cutting priority, through several of our Working Groups under the Canada-Mexico Partnership, including Environment, Energy, Forestry, and Trade, Investment and Innovation. Canada is eager to continue sharing technical expertise and best practices, from better monitoring and reduction of harmful emissions, such as methane, to facilitating indigenous consultations and workshops to combat illegal wildlife trade, such as the one that took place last month. We also cooperate on the conservation of national parks and protected areas. 

Third, I am pleased that Canada and Mexico have so many shared multilateral objectives in advancing protection of the global environment.  Canada is eager to continue to work with Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, including Mexico, to negotiate an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework in advance of the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties in China in 2021.  Canada is also championing the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which seeks the conservation of 30% of land and oceans by 2030, among other things. The upcoming COP26 will also be an important opportunity to advance discussion on themes such as aligning global recovery measures with the Paris Agreement, and improving resilience against future crises.  

There is every reason to think, in addition to the recent Climate Summit, there will be a renewed effort to hold a North American Leaders Summit (NALS).  When it occurs, we must take this major theme into account and be prepared with a North American-specific climate and environmental agenda. 

From the melting of Canada’s Arctic to more frequent droughts in Mexico, we are in this thing together by necessity.  As we begin to recover from this awful pandemic, let’s continue to “build back better”, by choosing to do so, with green solutions and opportunities, based on our strong foundation as friends, allies and partners in North America.

We must rise to the moment and this vital opportunity to enact the change that our populations expect of us today.

Originally published in Spanish in La Jornada