Clinton's Climate-change Plan Includes Canada

Hillary Clinton

By Jonny Wakefield

October 8, 2015

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's recently released energy plan mentions Canada just five times, but it could have a major impact on cooperation between the two countries.

While light on specifics, Clinton's "vision" for modernizing North American energy infrastructure outlines a few policies that would affect Canada.

Chief among them: if Clinton becomes president in 2016, she will "immediately launch negotiations with the leaders of Canada and Mexico" aimed at securing a North American Climate Compact to clean up the continent's energy and vehicle markets.

Clinton would do this by coordinating policy to "catalyze" clean energy development, reduce energy costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

The integrated nature of the North American energy market has long been a stumbling block for action on climate change. The issue has come up on more than one occasion during Canada's 2015 election campaign. 

The Conservative energy minister in the 2008 election promised greenhouse gas regulations in the oil and gas sector. During the first debate of the 2015 campaign, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said those regulations have yet to materialize due to foot-dragging on the part of the Americans.   

"This is an integrated North American sector, and we need integrated North American regulations," Harper said. "I've made that proposal to our partners, both the United States and Mexico. They haven't accepted that, but we are ready to go."

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau argued that "Canada is nowhere to be found" on the climate change file, saying the Liberal Party would work with the U.S. and Mexico "on a continental model" which seems similar to Clinton’s proposals.  

Clinton's Sept. 23 policy brief also refers to the integration of regional emissions trading schemes like the cap-and-trade market that exists between Quebec and California. 

Canada has traditionally indexed its greenhouse-gas reduction targets to the United States to avoid trade imbalances. However, Canadian reduction targets rolled out in May broke with precedent, aiming for 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Americans, meanwhile, have committed to a 28 per cent reduction.

But if Clinton wins in the U.S. and Harper is re-elected in Canada, the two nations could be looking at frosty relations on energy development. Clinton ruffled feathers in Ottawa late last month when she came out in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Clinton has typically been pegged as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, though new polls suggest Bernie Sanders may be leading in the crucial Iowa primary. 

The next round of climate talks begins in Paris later this year.