Justin Time for the Climate Change Talks in Paris
On the 19th of October, after the victory by an absolute majority of the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau was elected Prime Minister of Canada. His rise to power is met with anxiety in Canada’s oil industry, where the legacy of his father’s controversial energy policy still stings.
Although Mexico was not a major topic in his campaign, the two North-American countries have strong links, with yearly trade figures exceeding US$22 billion, and Canadian FDI in Mexico lying at US$5 billion. One of the topics that was addressed during Trudeau’s campaign was energy. After Stephen Harper’s government, which aimed to make Canada an “energy superpower” and blindly ignored environmental concerns, Canadians have now chosen a leader with a strong interest in tackling climate change. One of the first things the Liberal Party is expected to do is review Canada’s regulatory process for oil and gas projects, and implement a price on carbon.
During his campaign, the young Prime Minister expressed interest in forming a North-American energy block, highlighting the importance of regional integration and pledging higher environmental standards. One of the first decisions he will make refers to the planned Keystone XL pipeline, which would connect Canada’s oil sand fields to refineries in Texas and Oklahoma. Although this pipeline does not reach Mexico, its impact does. An oil purchase and sale agreement between Canada and its southern neighbor would have consequences for Mexico, not only in terms of the volume, but also in terms of the agreed requirements, including the extra economic ones. The planned construction of this pipeline has caused a lot of turmoil in Canada and the US, as it quickly became a symbol and a political litmus test. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would transport raw, tar sands oil right through the heart of both countries, “threatening to wreak environmental havoc on both sides of the border”, as one organization put it. Environmentalists believe the building of the pipeline to be a step into the past, instead of a shift into a clean energy future. Many believed Trudeau’s election would be the nail in the coffin for the project, but the Liberal Party, undeterred by allegations of hypocrisy, is not fundamentally opposed to the pipeline. Canada’s new Prime Minister will likely allow the construction of the pipeline, but not without tightening the environmental regulations surrounding it. The Mexican newspaper El Economista speculates that this could be the start of Canada setting the environmental agenda for the North American energy industry.
North-American environmentalists, and particularly Canadian ones, welcomed the news of Trudeau’s victory with open arms. Indeed, Canada’s green agenda was behind that of Mexico and the US, both very much in favor of pushing forward meaningful agreements. The three countries will now be able to present a unified front on this matter at COP 21, the major international climate change conference planned this December in Paris. Mexico’s ambassador to Canada expects the new Canada-Mexico-US unit to be an element of vanguard in the conference, which could lead to new international environmental objectives and strategies for attaining them.
Peña Nieto congratulated Justin Trudeau for his victory through his twitter account, and stated that he was looking forward to a new stage in the relationship between both countries, calling for the strengthening of their political, economic and social ties.