Canada and California are kindred progressive spirits on climate change, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday as he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a new blueprint for working together to stave off the worst consequences of a warming planet.
The framework signed by Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Environmental Protection Secretary Jared Blumenfeld, their respective bosses standing behind them, includes modest expansions on a similar 2019 agreement.
It also advances policy and regulatory steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants in both jurisdictions, as well as conservation measures and dealing with the worsening threat of wildfires.
And it will stand the test of time, Newsom said – regardless of who is in power in the California governor’s mansion, the White House or the Prime Minister’s Office.
California is a $3.3-trillion a year economy, he said – the fifth-largest in the world, and a “stable partner” whose efforts to address climate issues and pollution standards have been influencing other states and countries, including Canada, for decades.
“We punch above our weight,” Newsom said, describing the state as a “stable partner” whose regulatory reforms have stood the test of time and the political whims of the electorate.
“We carry a lot of weight as it relates to low-carbon green growth, as it relates to efforts to change the way we produce and consume energy – regardless of who’s in the White House.”
Trudeau said Canada will always find favour with a partner that’s willing to make progress on issues of shared significance.
“Canada has always been a country that engages in the world, and whether it’s engaging with like-minded countries or like-minded states like California, we’re just there to get things done,” Trudeau said.
“When we find alignment on so many things – as we always have with California, but as we specifically have under Gavin Newsom’s administration – we jump on it.”
Trudeau delivered an impassioned defence of his government’s efforts to rebrand Canada, a country economically dependent on its fossil-fuel resources, as a champion of tackling climate change.
It’s precisely because of that reputation as an oil-producing nation that Canada has extra credibility on climate issues, Trudeau said.
“Moving forward on climate change is really hard for us. We have a thriving fossil fuel industry in our country at a time where the world continues to run on fossil fuels and will for a number more years,” he said.
“The fact that we have that means it’s all the more important for us to step up and show real leadership on fighting climate change, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
Guilbeault later described taking part in a Summit of the Americas meeting to document progress on the Global Methane Pledge, an international effort to target one of the most powerful greenhouse gases.
Canada has committed to reducing methane emissions, which can be between 20 to 80 per cent worse for the atmosphere than CO2, by 30 per cent by 2030, Guilbeault said.
“We can get a big bang for our buck in terms of emissions reduction and in terms of preventing increases in temperatures,” he said.
“If we reduce global emissions of methane by 30 per cent between now and 2030, it’s 0.5 C that we’re basically sucking out of the atmosphere. Less warming means less climate change.”
The fellowship between Newsom and Trudeau, two progressive leaders in their early 50s who cut a similar silhouette, was evident from the moment they met on the front steps of the California Science Center.
The pair chatted and laughed out loud at each other’s jokes as they sat down for a brief luncheon meeting before their joint news conference, where Newsom joked about Trudeau’s popularity with his staff, a lack of term limits in Canada and how he himself is a “future ex-governor of California.”
The bonhomie gave way to a more sombre meeting later Thursday between Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden at the Summit of the Americas.
Biden agreed during that meeting that he would finally pay an in-person visit to Canada in the coming months, his first since becoming president in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Trudeau seated next to him, Biden delivered the standard White House greeting about the U.S. having “no better friend in the world than Canada” and said he and the prime minister share a similar vision for the hemisphere.
“I think we both share the same sense that the possibilities for our hemisphere are unlimited,” Biden said, calling it the “most democratic hemisphere in the world.”
Trudeau responded by saying it’s “extraordinarily important” for close partners like Canada and the U.S. to be there for each other and for allies around the world.
“The work that we can do on supporting and projecting and sharing our values is a way of actually supporting and impacting citizens around the world,” Trudeau said.
Doing so, he said, helps make the case “that democracy is not just fairer, but it’s also better for citizens, putting food on the table, putting futures in front of them.”
The federal government’s official readout of the meeting mentioned their mutual support of Ukraine in its fight against Russia, and that Trudeau also brought up Canada’s support for NATO and the plan to modernize the continental defence system known as Norad.
Trudeau also “expressed his support” for Biden’s proposed hemispheric “Partnership for Economic Prosperity,” but the readout did not mention whether Canada has been invited to take part.
Trudeau also committed to working closely with the U.S. and other partners “to respond to the current humanitarian, protection, and irregular migration challenges in the region.”
They also discussed supply chains and co-operating on securing critical minerals.
The White House readout went further, saying the two “discussed the potential of developing critical minerals in both countries,” as well as “joint efforts” to protect supply chains from “external shocks.”
Trudeau also made the point that U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber “are placing further pressure on home prices and affordability.”
Trudeau also sat down Thursday with the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, before sitting down with Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company.
Argentina and Canada have a lot of “common ground” on shared values, including climate change and gender equality, Fernandez said.
“Canada is a great country and has a great prime minister,” he said. “There’s a lot for us to do together.”
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