Trudeau Visit Should Spur U.S. Action to Combat Climate Change

Washington, DC -- With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Obama meeting Thursday in the Oval Office and reportedly signing a continental environment and climate-change strategy, the United States should embark on a debate about how to fully meet its Paris pledge, the Partnership for Responsible Growth (PRG) said today.

“This is probably the biggest development since Paris,” said George T. Frampton, Jr., co-founder of the nonprofit. “It offers our country an opportunity to generate some momentum.”

The agreement is expected to deal with tighter fuel and auto-emission standards and measures to foster innovation such as electric cars, charging stations, self-driving vehicles and ride-sharing apps, according to a story in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest-circulation national newspaper.

An agreement between countries with such enormous energy production and consumption, and with so much global influence, has the potential to be a major step forward in the efforts to tame climate change.

Trudeau is arriving in Washington with a significant national achievement in hand. Last week he persuaded the country's 10 provinces to accept the concept of putting a price on carbon. "There will be different approaches, but pricing carbon is part of the solution that this country and all of its premiers will put forward," Trudeau told a news conference.

“If Canada, with its high fossil-fuel production and consumption, can take bold action on carbon,” said Frampton, “we should be able to, as well.”

PRG is promoting a carbon fee, perhaps starting at $35/metric ton. It would generate a large revenue stream, thus creating the potential for a tax reform package. To earn support from Republicans, half of that money could go toward reducing the corporate tax rate. The rest might be used to compensate low- and middle-income households for slightly higher energy costs.

“Can it pass Congress? We have sat down with 200 senators and House members, or their aides, and we found broad receptivity to such a bargain,” Frampton said. “The key,” he said, “is for business leaders back home to tell their elected representatives that they see this as the best option in the fight against climate change.”

To promote a Northern Hemisphere approach, PRG is co-hosting a two-day conference in late May featuring leading experts from Canada, Mexico, and the United States. It will be conducted under the auspices of the Aspen Institute. Titled “Beyond Paris: The Road toward a North American Carbon Price,” the event will be co-hosted by the Wilson Center and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“With the EPA’s Clean Power Plan mired in controversy—and with evidence mounting that it will not generate significant GHG reductions—a carbon fee looks more promising by the day,” Frampton said.