Talk is cheap. Action is hard. Last December, the US, Canada, and Mexico signed on to support the climate change initiatives contained in the COP21 emissions agreement entered into by all the nations of the world in Paris. Here is is six months later and it is time to figure out how to make those promises a reality.
Meeting in Ottawa this week, President Obama, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto agreed that North America as a whole must lower its carbon emissions and obtain at least 50% of its electrical energy from non-polluting sources by 2025. “We find ourselves now at a moment where the alignment in terms of policy goals and focus on clean energy between our three countries is stronger than it has been in decades,” says White House climate adviser Brian Deese.
That is a tall order that is going to take some serious work to accomplish. How are we going to get there? Through a combination of hydro, wind, and solar power coupled with greater energy efficiency. It also included using nuclear plants and carbon capture and storage technologies as needed. Of the three countries, the US uses by far the most electrical energy — a total of 4,000 terawatts compared to 660 terawatts in Canada. Mexico has the smallest electrical grid of the three and uses only about 20% as much electricity as its northern neighbor.
“There’s a big gap between what leaders pledged in Paris and the emissions cuts needed to fend off the most dire impacts of climate change. The United States needs to continue to drive international cooperation to accelerate emissions reductions and help developing countries leapfrog dirtier pathways. Today’s announcements help move us closer to closing that gap,” says Lou Leonard, the World Wildlife Fund’s senior vice P\president for climate and energy.
Hitting the targets obviously means a large increase in the amount of power generated from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydro. The good news is, renewables accounted for 99% of new electric capacity in the US during the first quarter of 2016. But there is still a long way to go. The United States got only 13% of its electricity from non-nuclear zero carbon sources like wind, solar, and hydropower last year, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Politics will play a crucial role. Donald Trump has stated publicly that he intends to greatly expand the production and use of fossil fuels and roll back environmental regulations. Hillary Clinton, whatever her other faults may be, is committed to energy goals that are closely aligned with those agreed to this week by all three North American leaders.
The urgency is great and the earth cannot wait while Trump turns America into a pariah among nations. Greatness requires leadership, not egomaniacal posturing. Something we should all keep in mind come election time in November.
Source and photo credit: CleanTechnica