The United States and Canada have agreed joint steps to fight climate change, including cutting methane emissions from oil and gas operations and signing last year’s Paris climate deal “as soon as feasible.”
The agreement was announced as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama met at the White House.
“If we don’t agree, if we’re not aggressive, if we don’t pool our resources around the research and development and the clean energy agenda that’s required to solve this problem, then other countries won’t step up,” President Obama said at a news conference with Mr Trudeau on an unseasonably warm late winter day in the Rose Garden.
Environmentalists had long opposed the project, which had been under review by Washington for years.
Reuters reports Mr Trudeau, a Liberal, had expressed qualified support for Keystone in his campaign.
The two countries have committed to cutting emissions of methane by 40 to 45 per cent below 2012 levels by 2025, to take steps to fight climate change in the Arctic, and to speed development of green technologies.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin developing regulations for methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources immediately, and “will move as expeditiously as possible to complete this process,” the joint agreement said.
“The new data show that methane emissions are substantially higher than we previously understood,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a blog post.
“So, it’s time to take a closer look at regulating existing sources of methane emissions,” Ms McCarthy said.
Meanwhile, Environment and Climate Change Canada intends to propose initial regulations by early 2017 in collaboration with provinces, territories, and indigenous groups.
Mark Brownstein, a climate expert at the non-profit Environmental Defence Fund, said the countries, two of the world’s largest petroleum drillers, showed leadership in “setting a mark for other major oil and gas producing nations.”
However, the EPA should not slow-walk the rulemaking process during the final months of President Obama’s administration final months, said Conrad Schneider, advocacy director for the Clean Air Task Force.
Petroleum industry interests said the EPA’s plan to regulate existing oil and gas operations was overkill.
“Regulations are really unnecessary window dressing” as industry is already reducing methane emissions, said Frank Maisano, a lobbyist.
The countries will also encourage state and provincial governments to share lessons learned about designing carbon markets.
After the US Supreme Court last month ruled to delay implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan on fighting emissions from coal plants, new methane regulations could help Washington meet its pledges made in Paris.
President Obama has said he believes the plan is on secure legal grounds.
The United States and Canada also agreed to work to implement the Paris Agreement.
They agreed to endorse the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring initiative to reduce wasteful burning of natural gas at production fields, and to reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, industrial gases with a high potential to trap the earth’s heat.
In the Arctic, which acts as an air conditioner for the world but where some of the fastest climate-related changes are occurring, the countries agreed to set standards on shipping, fishing, and oil and gas exploration and development, and to base decisions on scientific evidence.
That development will occur “only when the highest safety and environmental standards are met,” the agreement said.