US, Canada, Mexico eye increased collaboration in clean energy

19 February 2016

Following December's UN climate agreement, countries are ramping up clean energy development, including through regional collaboration. 

The US, Canada, and Mexico have agreed to take a series of steps aimed at boosting North American climate and energy cooperation – an announcement that was hailed as a potential step toward a future joint energy strategy between the trading partners. The memorandum of understanding, inked last week by the countries’ respective energy ministers, focuses mainly on sharing data across various areas, ranging from energy efficiency to renewable energy technologies.

"This memorandum takes the important strides we've made in recent years towards a continental approach to energy and expands our relationship in support of an even more ambitious clean-energy environmental agreement,” said Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

Along with this draft framework, the three countries – which are already partners across a host of other forums, including a clean energy working group as well the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – have also launched a web-based platform that demarcates all of their energy infrastructure. “This is significant because it allows us to think about continental energy integration in a new light,” said the Canadian official.

 “The trilateral relationship certainly is not missing a beat. If anything, I think it is accelerating even more with the very strong Canadian commitment in the areas of energy, environment, and innovation,” said US Energy Secretary Ernest Moritz, according to comments reported by the Financial Post.

Building on Paris

This framework on clean energy development comes hot on the heels of the recently-concluded Paris climate accord, adopted multilaterally during the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Twenty-first Conference of the Parties last December.

In addition, the three countries were among 20 that clinched a Mission Innovation agreement this past November at the start of the Paris conference, eyeing a scale-up in clean energy innovation to improve its affordability, including through measures such as information sharing and increased government investment.

Environmental groups have lauded the North American development as significant for various reasons, particularly in the wake of both the Paris accord as well as the US’ recent rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.

"It's the fact we are recognising that our energy relationship is more than just oil, and there is more to the Canada-US relationship than the Keystone pipeline," said Keith Stewart, head of Greenpeace Canada's climate and energy campaign.

The Keystone project had been proposed by TransCanada, with the goal of transporting crude oil and bitumen from the Canadian province of Alberta to US refineries. After years of heated debate and multiple delays, it was ultimately rejected by US President Barack Obama in November 2015 on environmental and economic grounds.

ICTSD reporting

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