US, Canada agree on methane emissions cuts during rare state visit

The US and Canada have agreed to cut methane gas emissions from the oil and gas sector nearly in half within the next decade, the White House said Thursday.

The announcement comes during a rare, pomp-filled state visit by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that featured a formal welcome ceremony on the lawn of the White House, a joint press conference and a state dinner Thursday evening.

Obama and Trudeau have committed to a reduction in methane emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2012 levels by 2025, and US and Canadian authorities will start work immediately on developing emissions regulations.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, methane accounts for about 10 per cent of US human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second most prevalent greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide.

The gas is also more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping radiation in Earth's atmosphere.

After talks in the Oval Office, Obama and Trudeau also stressed the importance of implementing the Paris climate agreement reached last year and called for further global action on climate change.

"I'm especially pleased to say that the United States and Canada are fully united in combating climate change," Obama said.

He noted his trip to Alaska that year as the first US president to visit the Arctic, where he saw "how both of our nations are threatened" by climate change.

Relations between the US and Canada were damaged by the Obama administration's delays and ultimate rejection of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline between the two countries.

But Trudeau, who took office last year, is more closely ideologically aligned with Obama than Trudeau's predecessor, Stephen Harper, and the two leaders have agreed on the importance of halting climate change.

Although Canadian prime ministers have frequently met with US presidents, the official visit was the first in nearly two decades, and Obama acknowledged a kinship with the young, dynamic leader who reminds him of his younger self.

Trudeau noted that friendship was key in joint action on climate change but dismissed suggestions that the US-Canadian relationship would change should a Republican candidate win November presidential elections.

"That friendship, matched by much hard work, has allowed us to do great things throughout our history, from the beaches of Normandy, to the Free Trade Agreement and now, today, on climate change," he said. "The president and I share a common goal. We want a clean growth economy that continues to provide good jobs and great opportunities for all of our citizens."

They also announced plans to increase cooperation to protect the Arctic, including by partnering with indigenous communities, limiting the environmental impact from shipping lanes and oil and gas drilling, and preventing overfishing.

The talks also focused on trade issues, including the need to approve the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal involving both nations and the need to ease the flow of goods and people across the US-Canadian border.

Obama also praised Canada as a "valued member" of the fight against the Islamic State extremist group, pointing to its training and advising mission, intelligence gathering and humanitarian aid, despite Trudeau's move to end Canadian participation in airstrikes.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25
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