By: Marc Z. Goldgrub, Cleantech Law Partners
Emerging from his meeting with President Obama at the White House on Thursday, March 10th, newly-elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that for the first time in over a decade, the two nations’ leaders share a “common goal” regarding climate change. “We want a clean growth economy that continues to provide good jobs and great opportunities for all of our citizens,” said Prime Minister Trudeau. “And I am confident that by working together we will get there sooner than we think.” Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech also referenced his and Obama’s intention to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, reduce methane and hydrofluorocarbon emissions in both countries, and introduce aligned greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy duty vehicles.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Trudeau also took action on climate change at home with the Vancouver Declaration, an agreement between the Canadian federal government and the provincial premiers (the ‘governors’ of Canada’s ‘states’) in which the parties agreed to make a coordinated effort to support climate change mitigation and adaptation through investments in green infrastructure (including doubling investments in clean energy, research and development over five years), public transit and energy efficiency. The agreement marked a sea change in Canadian federal environmental policy. During former-Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s years in office between 2006 and late 2015, the Canadian federal government was known for being completely intransigent on climate action even as various provinces embarked on independent environmental initiatives, including the introduction of carbon pricing schemes in Quebec and British Columbia.
During the lead-up to the last election, Prime Minister Trudeau’s loyalty to the climate movement was mired in a level of ambiguity. His time as a member of the Canadian parliament was marked by a streak of pro-environmentalism, but his stance in favor of the notorious Keystone XL pipeline inspired many Canadian environmentalists’ skepticism. Since taking office in November though, the Prime Minister’s actions and strong words on climate action have dispelled at least some of the doubts surrounding his devotion to tackling the issue.