Climate Change High on Agenda as Obama and Trudeau Meet for Summit

Source: By IAN AUSTEN and CORAL DAVENPORT, New York Times • Posted: Tuesday, June 28, 2016

President Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada at the White House in March. They will meet again Wednesday at a summit meeting in Ottawa. Zach Gibson/The New York Times 

OTTAWA — When Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, appeared at the United Nations this spring to sign the Paris climate accord, the rapturous ovation he received was worthy of the celebrity he had become, a leader full of promise and of promises, especially on climate change.

On Wednesday, as Canada convenes a North American Leaders’ Summit here, the youthful Canadian will meet the last celebrity to emerge to such adulation on the world stage, and President Obama will have some lessons to impart. Climate change will be a central topic of the summit meeting and of Mr. Obama’s address to Canada’s House of Commons.

The leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada will announce a North America-wide climate partnership, syncing their national policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions. They will pledge a joint goal of generating 50 percent of North America’s electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2025, up from 37 percent today. White House officials said that power mix would include wind, solar, hydropower, nuclear energy and coal or gas power paired with carbon capture technology. They will also announce that Mexico will join an existing agreement between the United States and Canada to collectively regulate leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that escapes from oil and gas wells.

But all of that will come with a note of caution. Unlike his Canadian counterpart, the American president’s hair is now gray, his speeches wizened by his experiences — and his message is likely to reflect the hard lessons he has learned as he has tried for nearly eight years to curb the climate-warming emissions of Canada’s neighbor to the south.

“Trudeau is facing the same fossil-fuel-lobby reality that Obama encountered,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former climate adviser in the Clinton administration who now consults on climate policy. “In a way, Canada is a test case for the penetration of renewable energy in a fossil-rich country.”

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The parallels between the leaders are striking, even if the younger man’s efforts have only begun. During his first eight months in office, Mr. Trudeau, 44, has put climate change at the heart of his agenda, after his predecessor, Stephen Harper, a Conservative, reneged on Canada’s commitments under the first global climate pact, the Kyoto Protocol.

When President Obama, then new to office, attended the 2009 climate change summit meeting in Copenhagen, he too was cheered by environmentalists and many world leaders as a drastic departure from his predecessor, George W. Bush, a Texas oilman who had also pulled his country out of Kyoto.