United States President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are set to discuss new ideas for curbing climate change and expanding trade during an Oval Office meeting later today.
White House officials said during a preview that Mr Trudeau, who pledged to repair frayed ties with the US when he took office in November, will meet with President Obama today ahead of a star-studded state dinner.
Reuters Newsagency reports the White House, which sees a natural partner in Mr Trudeau, hopes the two countries can commit to cut methane emissions from the energy sector by 40 per cent to 45 per cent from 2012 levels by 2025, and endorse an initiative to stop routine flaring from oil and gas fields.
“The commitment of both leaders to addressing this global challenge is clear and I expect under their leadership North America will make significant progress this year,” Todd Stern, the US climate envoy told reporters.
A major focus of the new partnership will also be on providing better protection for the Arctic, which is experiencing temperatures seven degrees above normal this winter causing sea ice cover to dip to new lows.
The two countries are reportedly discussing measures to preserve the region’s ecologically sensitive environment, including restricting the use of diesel fuels that lead to so-called ‘black carbon’ and more funding for Arctic research.
Mr Stern told reporters the Arctic has a “canary in the coal mine” quality to it, acting as an early warning signal of the dangers of climate inaction.
“It’s important to let people around the world know what’s going on there and the impacts there, which will, in turn, have impacts around the world,” he said.
Mr Stern said the two countries also are looking at ways to make carbon emissions from the aviation sector “neutral,” starting in 2020 through the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The United States also hopes to accelerate the timetable to phase out HFCs, industrial gases that have far more potential to trap the earth’s heat than carbon dioxide, through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, Mr Stern said.
On trade, a hot-button issue for both Democrats and Republicans in the race to succeed President Obama in next November’s presidential election, the leaders are likely to discuss two longstanding irritants, softwood lumber and meat labelling.
A deal governing Canadian softwood lumber exports expired last year, and the two nations are talking about a new arrangement, said Mark Feierstein, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for the Western hemisphere.
“We’re open to exploring all options with Canada at this point,” Mr Feierstein said, declining to put timelines on when a deal may be reached.
The White House also hopes Canada will formally end its World Trade Organisation case against a US labelling law that the WTO ruled hurt Canadian beef and pork exports, he said.
The United States repealed the law in December.