Wednesday, August 16, 2017

NAFTA Renegotiation Is a Stark Reminder that States and Cities Must Protect Against Climate Disaster

Local governments can still work with Canada and Mexico on a forward-looking North American energy strategy.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry waves after addressing the media in Mexico City, Mexico July 13, 2017 (Credit: Henry Romero / Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
This week, officials from the United States, Mexico, and Canada will begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  Energy Secretary Rick Perry has cited the occasion as an opportunity to create a new continent-wide energy strategy.  Given the administration’s focus on fossil fuels in its energy agenda, it would be unsurprising if its vision for such a strategy includes more oil and gas development, more cross-border pipelines, and more pollution threatening the North American people and environment.

It is therefore up to U.S. cities, states, and businesses to work with Mexican and Canadian partners to create a North American energy strategy that protects the continent from the effects of climate change—and positions each country to benefit from the global shift to clean energy. This shift means big business for North America—a fact that seems to be lost on the current administration.  Already, the solar industry alone accounts for 43 percent of employment in the U.S. electric power generation sector, providing more than 370,000 jobs in 2016 compared to approximately 86,000 through the coal industry.

U.S. cities and states are up to the challenge.  Although President Trump has stated his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, non-federal leaders across the country are stepping up in unprecedented numbers to lead the global climate effort.  More than 200 cities and 9 states, for example, have joined the We Are Still In coalition, which has pledged to continue the fight against climate change and support the goals of the Paris Agreement.

These U.S. cities and states—along with the cities, states, provinces, and national governments of Canada and Mexico—should collaborate to accelerate the cost reductions that clean energy has seen in recent years.  Together, they should collectively commit to more ambitious clean energy deployment targets in order to demonstrate to the world that North America is still interested in bold climate leadership.

Sam Adams is the Director of the World Resources Institute, United States, and former mayor of Portland, Oregon.  Gwynne Taraska is the Associate Director of Energy and Environment Policy at the Center for American Progress.  Erin Flanagan is Program Director of Federal Policy at the Pembina Institute, a Canadian clean energy think tank.  The authors lead a trilateral work program on North American climate cooperation.

Read more at  NAFTA Renegotiation Is a Stark Reminder that States and Cities Must Protect Against Climate Disaster

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