Weekly wrap: US, Canada leaders join forces to back Paris climate deal

This week’s top climate politics and policy stories. Sign up here to have our Friday briefing sent to your inbox


By Ed King

“No two nations agree on everything,” US president Barack Obama said at a White House press conference with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, but it’s clear on climate these two are joined at the hip.

US officials say plans for a climate pact were born soon after Trudeau won office in late 2015. The resulting deal covers Arctic oil drilling, truck emissions and new controls on methane.

What we found interesting was a pledge from both countries to deliver a carbon cutting road-map up to 2050: Canada doesn’t have a mid-century target.

Is it a sign North America is stepping up as a result of the Paris Agreement? The US presidential election may determine that. But it’s a sign Obama’s climate diplomacy drive is not yet done.

Read our analysis here – below is a taster of how green groups responded to the news.

Nat Keohane, EDF: The statement was also notable for its focus on a new and crucial opportunity to make progress this year: the opportunity to forge a strong agreement to limit carbon pollution from international aviation through action in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Ken Kimmell, Union of Concerned Scientists: The pledge to cut methane emissions—a potent global warming gas—from the oil and gas sector, including from existing sources, is particularly noteworthy as these sectors are the largest industrial source of methane emissions in the U.S.

Greenpeace UK chief John Sauven: This historic announcement is a serious step towards full protection for the Arctic. It shows we’re getting close to the point of ending the hunt for new oil. Melting ice is no longer an invitation for more industrial activity in the Arctic – it’s the reason that we need to urgently stop

CO2 levels soar

Any action is good news, given US agency NOAA’s warning this week that 2015 CO2 levels made the largest annual leap in 56 years. “Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist at NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “It’s explosive compared to natural processes.”

Green Climate Fund

A three-day board meeting in Songdo this week ended with a new strategic plan, the accreditation of HSBC and Credit Agricole as partners and a promise to webcast future gatherings (it’s not just the Kardashians that break the internet). We spoke to the board co-chairs minutes after the meet concluded – here’s an exclusive interview.

In the latest in our series focusing on the ‘other victims of climate change’ Alex Pashley travelled to the small Welsh town of Port Talbot, famed for its giant steelworks, to ask what the future holds for heavy industry on a greener planet.

China: National People’s Congress

In a new report from Beijing, courtesy of China Dialogue, Liu Qin looks at plans to radically slash levels of the PM 2.5 air pollutant in China’s bigger cities. According to reports, air pollution was one of the main topics at local-level Lianghui meetings, with local government work reports citing specific smog targets for the first time.

Quote of the week

“One hand does not clap, but two do and make a sound. This about time we acknowledge the contribution of women,” – South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane marks International Women’s Day 2016 with a call to climate action

Around the world

Shipping: Maersk, Cargill back faster emissions cuts
Geoengineering plan to limit sea level rise ‘flawed’
Electric cars ‘cheaper’ than petrol, diesel rivals in 6 years
Oil and gas:
BP, Shell acknowledge climate risk to business model
OECD rejects heavy industry’s ‘carbon leakage’ claims
China, India back new $150m GEF sustainability campaign
UN climate talks:
Is Brussels inaction wrecking the Paris dream?

Read more on: Breaking News