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Canada, the United States and the fight against climate change

obama-harper.jpgDespite their environmental policy differences, Canada and the United States will fight climate change together.

(Madrid) THE NEW AMERICAN PRESIDENT’S first official trip abroad, which in a way could have been expected to be to the Middle East, was to his closest neighbor to the north: Canada. In doing so, Obama followed a long tradition of former American presidents.

But today there is an issue facing the two friendly nations that cannot just be glossed over, and that has never before occupied a special place in the American foreign policy agenda. I am talking about an environmental treaty on clean energy. The United States and Canada have a close commercial relationship and share similar democratic values, but regarding the environment, there are some important differences between the two countries that must shrink. This is why Obama is especially interested in signing a treaty and harmonizing the two countries’ respective positions. “We must move away from the buy American slogan and reinforce the idea that trade is beneficial for all nations”

We must bear in mind that Canada is the United States’ greatest commercial and strategic ally, and the two North American giants do 1.5 billion dollars worth of business with each other daily [1].

With this visit, Obama was hoping to pacify the skeptic Canadian prime minister, and assure him that the recently passed economic stimulus package will not be harmful to the neighboring country, but rather, will have the exact opposite effect.

According to the new American president, we must move away from the buy American slogan and reinforce the idea that trade is beneficial for all nations.

THE FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE

“The United States will have to make a great effort in this area, given that it still has no national environmental strategy and is light years behind the Canadian standards”

Other extremely important subjects were touched upon during the meeting between the two presidents, such as bilateral regional cooperation regarding energy, trade and the environment, and the importance of military operations. Obama also asked Harper to get behind a joint strategy for Afghanistan, since the country is the new administration’s principle war objective.

The new American government has realized that the operation in Afghanistan cannot be exclusively military, but must also be based on diplomacy and cooperation for development, looking to Canada – which will send important resources (economic, technical and social assistance) to the country – as an example. “The clean energy dialog and a possible joint environmental agreement are unfortunately tainted by a crucial matter: the difficulties that extracting Canadian oil entails”

In spite of the two countries’ environmental policy differences, both intend to fight climate change and work for emissions reduction together. The Canadian prime minister has said that the United States will have to make a great effort in this area, given that it still has no national environmental strategy and is light years behind the Canadians’ standards and public awareness. Obama responded to this comment sharply: the time has come for the United States to lead the fight against climate change. And this is indeed the case: he has committed to reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050. Ottawa, in turn, will cut its emissions by 60 percent by the same date.

CANADIAN OIL

“Canada is the biggest exporter of oil and natural gas to the United States, which reduces the latter’s dependence on crude oil from countries in the Gulf region”

The clean energy dialog and a possible joint environmental agreement are unfortunately tainted by a crucial matter: the difficulties that extracting Canadian oil entails.

If Obama wants a green agreement with Canada, he will first have to solve the extraction problem, since the country’s oil is mainly extracted from Alberta, and due to the region’s orography, it requires a process that uses up a lot of energy and emits a lot of gases, something that goes directly against the goal of promoting clean energy. Let’s not forget that Canada is the biggest exporter of oil and natural gas to the United States, which reduces the latter’s dependence on crude oil from countries in the Gulf region. This is important for the Americans, and it thus makes Canada a strategic and important partner.

So, how is Obama going to solve this difficult problem? Give it some time. The first green steps have already been taken; let’s just hope that he continues to march forward.