By Sen. Doug Black and Gary G. Mar
Published in the National Post
April 1, 2021
With a new administration in Washington, and a willing partner in Ottawa, Canada and the United States finally have a chance to do something they never have before — craft a meaningful, measurable and enduring North American climate and energy strategy.
Both governments are deeply engaged on climate progress and the U.S.-hosted global climate summit at the end of April is fast approaching. Now is the time to achieve what has eluded negotiators for the past 15 years. The strategy starts with a Canada-U.S. partnership and would, hopefully, expand later to include Mexico.
We are natural partners who can maximize benefits across our borders with an environmental and energy strategy that is smart and bold.
The first plank of the strategy should be a comprehensive emissions reduction plan. It would build upon the commitments made at the first bilateral meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and include specific binational objectives and deliverables. Emphasis should be placed on emissions-reducing technologies with the goal of accentuating collective strengths and leveraging national proficiencies.
Let’s think big on carbon capture and storage, tackle the methane challenge and figure out how to compete for market share in the growing hydrogen economy. Let’s co-operate on advanced nuclear, metals, minerals and hydro. Let’s also collaborate on emissions credits for carbon-competitive exports and demonstrate global leadership by aligning clean tech R&D.
While getting the energy mix right is essential, this strategy can go beyond fuels and into cutting-edge technological innovation. With strong leadership, we can reduce emissions in all kinds of areas and build the energy system of the future, while creating good-paying jobs and boosting competitiveness.
COVID has shown us that “just in time” supply chains need to be supplemented with logistics networks for the “just in case.” It has taught us to rely only on ourselves and our closest allies.
That is why the second plank of this strategy should be a serious commitment to energy security. We can be a continent that powers itself and does not have to worry about natural or military threats to our energy supply. This can be done while working together to capture a greater share of the international energy market and leading the way with rigorous estandards.
If we want to be energy secure, and to rely less on unpredictable foreign energy suppliers and more on each other, we need to strengthen what connects us by updating and modernizing transportation infrastructure across the continent: airports, bridges, broadband, ports, pipelines, roads, railways. We can tap into shared expertise and talent to get it done. With record infrastructure stimulus on the way in both the U.S. and Canada, there will never be a better time to set this course.
A binational environment and energy working group tasked with building out the strategy should be struck at the earliest opportunity. The post-COVID recovery, and the climate challenge, demand leadership that meets the moment.
here is no successful navigation of our national energy futures without binational co-operation. When the upsides are evident and include energy security, climate progress, economic growth and geopolitical benefits, it is in our shared interest to realize and exceed the visions of administrations past.
When it comes to energy, we should be policy-makers rather than policy-takers and establish a mutual framework that suits our continent and its workers; one that paves the way on climate and reinvigorates our communities. Working together under a unified strategy, no other jurisdiction can match our capacity or ingenuity to succeed in a lower carbon future.
The U.S. and Canada have done big things together before. Think NATO, NORAD and NAFTA. It is precisely because of our free, open and collaborative engagement that we are more globally competitive. It’s time to show the world what the closest friends and allies on the planet can do.
Sen. Doug Black is an Alberta senator and deputy chair of the Canadian Senate committee on energy, the environment and natural resources. Gary Mar is the president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation and a former minister in Alberta.