The United States and Canada announced a new partnership aimed at tackling climate change and protecting the Arctic, one the two countries hope can be a model for the rest of the world, the White House announced Thursday.
The announcement came during Justin Trudeau's first visit to the United States as Canadian prime minister. The White House touted the partnership as an improvement on relations between the two nations when it comes to climate change.
The U.S. and Canada committed to implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change, which will be signed next month. Canada also agreed to follow the U.S. target of reducing methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025.
Dan Utech, deputy assistant to the President for energy and climate change, said Trudeau and the Canadian government were important partners for the U.S. in Paris. The administration and the Canadians want to build off that momentum, he said.
"Both countries are committing to a robust set of actions to advance their goals," he said.
The relationship between Canada and the U.S. was often strained when it came to climate change under previous Prime Minister Steven Harper, due to the Obama administration's opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. Trudeau is also a proponent of the project, but is much less hawkish than Harper, and the new PM has signaled he believes the world must act on climate change.
Much of the bilateral agreement focuses on aligning environmental standards and energy resources between the two countries.
The agreement would have the U.S. and Canada meet common energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment by 2020, cooperate on strengthening the electrical grid, implement more clean energy sources, and develop clean energy through the Mission Innovation program, which seeks to increase research and development funding.
As a part of the agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency and Environment and Climate Change Canada will coordinate their work on regulating methane emissions.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the EPA would work on gathering information this year from the oil and gas industry on methane emissions to determine where most of the emissions come from. She would not commit to the U.S. issuing the final standards for methane emissions in 2016.
"We are actually looking at what we're doing next, which is moving forward with the information collection request … which is the best way for us to get at systematically these hundreds of thousands of sources," she said.
Methane is a greenhouse gas that is four times as potent as carbon dioxide, and so the White House hopes the two countries working together to limit emissions would slow the effects of climate change.
John Morton, executive vice president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, said reducing methane emissions could have a large impact on the climate. He said the White House would continue working bilaterally with other countries this year on similar climate agreements.
"You can expect to see continued progress with our bilateral partners in the year ahead," he said.
The two countries also committed to working together to conserve the Arctic by protecting more land and marine areas, at least 17 percent of Arctic land and 20 percent of Arctic Ocean areas, by 2020. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said the U.S. and Canada would coordinate their priorities for the Arctic, and that their partnership could lead to quicker action on the world stage.
She said the two countries would work with the Arctic Council, a group of all the world's countries at the top of the globe, to work on sustainable fishing and improved shipping practices through the Arctic.
Jewell added that science ministers from Arctic countries would be meeting at the White House in 2016, which will be an opportunity for the American-Canadian partnership to bear fruit.
"(We) will be fully aligned, coordinated and will hopefully help move the process forward quicker because of our close cooperation," she said.