Canada Minister to Push Pruitt on Climate, Clean Energy Policies

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By Dean Scott

Canada’s environment minister will press the new EPA head March 16 to find ways to support the U.S. clean energy sector amid early signs the Trump administration may be more inclined to roll back climate policies to spur coal and other fossil fuel development.

Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, said March 15 it will be her second discussion with the administration since President Donald Trump’s took office in November. His win raised new uncertainty around U.S. leadership on climate change and renewable energy development.

Trump vowed during the campaign to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate pact and is nearing a decision many expect will begin to rollback Environmental Protection Agency carbon pollution limits for power plants. Those rules are essential to anchoring U.S. climate policy.

McKenna, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, said she plans to make the “economic opportunity” case for clean energy—that it remains a vital engine for job creation—in her meeting slated for March 16 with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The Canadian minister said her meetings with Trump administration officials, congressional representatives, and others this week are actually following up on “behind the scenes” conversations she had with Pruitt shortly after the election in which she hoped to lay the groundwork for continued U.S.-Canada cooperation on climate and clean energy.

The environment minister hinted that may be an uphill battle.

“Even though we may have some different perspectives about things, I think I work really hard in this job to work together with everyone,” McKenna said.

Still Hopeful on Paris

The Canadian minister told reporters after the forum that she is pressing the U.S. to stay at the table for the Paris Agreement, the 2015 accord that for the first time committed developing and developed nations to address climate change.

“I’m still hopeful that the U.S. will be part of the Paris Agreement,” McKenna told reporters. She represented Canada at the summit when the agreement was signed.

The environment minister’s trip is also meant to highlight U.S.-Canada collaboration on climate, clean air and water, and improving environmental protections for the Great Lakes.

McKenna’s trip comes roughly a month after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Trump had their first meeting, though that summit focused more on potential areas of agreement than bridging what may be a widening gulf between the two nations on climate policy and trade.

But the prospect of Trump withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris deal stands in stark contrast to a February 2016 summit between President Barack Obama and Trudeau. Their meeting launched a joint U.S.-Canada effort to combat methane, a super-polluting greenhouse gas.

Still Questions on Trade

Trudeau has since gone on to push Canada and its provinces to expand efforts to put a carbon price on greenhouse gas emissions. He and Obama joined in strongly backing the Paris climate deal reached in December 2015 between nearly 200 nations.

On trade, Trudeau has largely taken a wait-and-see approach in response to Trump’s push for putting “America First” in international negotiations, including the potential for new tariff “adjustments” to bolster U.S. manufacturing and other sectors vulnerable to trade.

Trump also has signaled the U.S. may seek to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico; in his Feb. 28 address to Congress he argued the deal has hurt the U.S. economy, costing the nation one-quarter of its manufacturing jobs.

McKenna said she is telling the U.S. administration there remain benefits to the free flow of clean energy technology and even what amounts to a cross-border supply of electricity to U.S. consumers from renewable sources in Canada. An estimated 9 million U.S. jobs are tied to trade and investment with Canada, the minister said.

“Trade is important,” McKenna said. “Trade is a good thing.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Dean Scott in Washington at DScott@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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