The Canadian, U.S. and Mexican leaders have agreed to a trilateral energy and climate plan that sets new goals for emission reductions, and paves the way for joint development of low-carbon technologies and a dramatic increase of electricity exports from Canada.
At the North American leaders' summit on Wednesday, the leaders committed to a continent-wide goal of having 50 per cent of all electricity come from clean-energy sources by 2025, an increase from the current 37 per cent; a reduction in methane emissions from the oil and gas industry of 40 per cent to 45 per cent; and cuts in two other potent greenhouse gases.
They also agreed to work together on research and development projects aimed at commercializing clean technology, including demonstration projects in areas such as energy storage, and the capture of carbon dioxide for use as an industrial feedstock or for sequestration underground.
U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Ottawa on Wednesday and joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto for the so-called Three Amigos summit, with a major focus on co-operation on energy and climate change. The agreement was reached before the leaders even sat down, and largely brings Mexico into a bilateral plan reached during Mr. Trudeau's visit to Washington in March, although with some new elements.
"This partnership will see our countries stand side by side as we work toward the common goal of a North America that is competitive, that encourages clean growth and that protects our shared environment now and for generations to come," Mr. Trudeau said at a joint news conference at the National Gallery in Ottawa, a few blocks from Parliament Hill.
"Today's climate agreement stands as proof that co-operation pays off and that working together always beats going it alone."
The three government leaders committed to ratifying the Paris climate agreement that was reached in December, and urged other countries to do so to allow it to come into force. As part of Wednesday's North American accord, the federal government committed to fill 100 per cent of its own electricity needs from clean energy sources, and to buy low-emission vehicles.
Mr. Obama said the North American target for a lower-carbon electricity system – which includes renewable and nuclear energy, carbon capture and storage, and demand reduction – is a "a bold move but an eminently achievable one." But it will require the construction of transmission lines across the continent for the clean-electricity sector to meet its potential, the U.S. President said.
Environmental groups applauded the 50-per-cent target – although some want to see 100 per cent renewable – and hailed by Canadian electricity producers as an opportunity for growth.
Canada's largest solar energy company, Canadian Solar Solutions Inc. of Guelph, Ont., recently got a contract in Mexico for a 63-megawatt installation and is aiming to expand its presence across North America. Mexico, in particular, "is a country that is pretty prime right now for development," Ken Rowbotham, the company's general manager, said on Wednesday. He added that the North American climate agreement will bolster that development.
Canadian power producers – from giants such as Hydro-Quebec and Manitoba Hydro to smaller, renewable-energy generators – hope to boost their exports as a result of U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector.
The industry – along with the federal government – financed a report released on Wednesday on how U.S. states can use Canadian imports to meet the requirements of Mr. Obama's clean-power plan. That Environmental Protection Agency regulatory effort has been put on holding pending court appeals, but if enacted, would require states to reduce GHG emissions in the electricity sector by 32 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Canada has a $3-billion surplus in electricity trade with the United States, and exports could double – or even triple – over the next 15 years if the required transmission infrastructure is built, said Sergio Marchi, chief executive officer of the Canadian Electricity Association, which represents power generators and helped finance the report.
"I think [clean-energy commitment] offers an exciting opportunity for us in Canada to further our exports of clean electricity, which is always going to be good for jobs and economic opportunity here at home," Mr. Marchi said. "But it has the additional benefit of helping to move North America to a reduced carbon footprint. So it's a double win."