Despite all the coverage of the US presidential race, we still don’t know much about Trump’s thinking in the key policy areas of energy and the environment.
Although we have witnessed an incredibly volatile US campaign that held a certain voyeuristic appeal for so many months, we have not learned a great deal about the president-elect’s views on many issues that will impact generations to come.
Many of the longer-term policy questions that have emerged internationally around the environment and energy, and that will impact Canadians as global citizens, have hardly been part of the conversation. In recent years, despite our two countries’ different views on policy, we have realized that it has been important to create dialogue with the United States on these issues so that the discussion is not polarized. Even though some of these discussions are difficult, by avoiding them we are creating uncertainty in our long-term economic planning, hardening positions and missing opportunities to build a transitional energy economy.
In an increasingly interconnected global economy, the future of North America’s economic growth and our economic potential will depend on our ability to work well together on issues that affect us jointly and also on broader multilateral concerns. Policy choices on climate change and energy will have dramatic effects on the economies of Canada, the United States and beyond.
As Canadians, we understand the importance of energy to our economy. We will continue to need energy in all forms and the energy infrastructure to support the North American economy, including transmission systems and pipelines. Globally, we also see governments with emerging economies continuing with the development of energy exploration and production to enhance the quality of life of their citizens. In order to guarantee a supply of energy for economic growth, we will need to manage the transition from conventional to sustainable energy and make difficult choices about transportation, infrastructure and and even new forms of renewable power generation and transmission.
In addition, a global movement to address climate change is continuing to grow, which we would ignore to our detriment. Leadership from the United States, as one of the world’s larger industrial powers and a significant multilateral player, has been fundamental to setting the direction of the discussion and making policy choices that have impacted it.
The International Energy Agency has developed new approaches, such as the Clean Energy Ministerial forum, created and principally supported by President Barack Obama’s administration. That initiative has developed strategies for national policy-makers and the private sector to more quickly deploy sustainable technologies in the production and consumption of electricity.
Many of these ideas were part of new trilateral initiatives with respect to energy infrastructure and the creation of a North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership, outlined this past June at the most recent trilateral summit of heads of government. The strategy would develop innovative approaches and sensible plans to monitor the energy sector’s impact on the environment, enhance energy literacy and create more jobs as part of a continental dialogue on a more sustainable energy economy.
These are not simple issues, and they did not elicit much if any public discussion during the American campaign. It is often the case that some complicated policy options are developed in further detail only once campaigns are over and the transition begins.
The concern is that in the current political environment, a critical dialogue on climate change and energy security might not occur any time soon. The Trump administration has been charged with bringing dramatic policy change to the United States. To achieve this quickly, the new administration is more likely to focus on the management of short-term political issues than the longer-term strategic thinking that is required.
We know that the evolving partnership between Canada, the United States and Mexico has been an exciting development. There has been real momentum behind the drive to use the relationship to look at common areas of interest: security, trade, immigration and economic growth.
Now we will see if there is any appetite within the new administration to continue that work, or whether some of the more sensational elements from the campaign trail will dominate the political agenda to the detriment of global dialogue on energy and environment.
Photo: Andrew Cline / Shutterstock.com
This article is part of The US Presidential Election special feature.
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