North American leaders commit to 50% clean power goal

30 June 2016

The leaders of Canada, Mexico and the USA pledged yesterday to generate 50% of their energy using clean power sources by 2025, using sources including nuclear, renewable and carbon capture and storage technologies.

Nieto, Trudeau and Obama arrive at the Ottawa summit (Image: Government of Canada)

The pledge was made at the North American Leaders' Summit in Ottawa, Canada in a joint statement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and President Barack Obama of the USA. "We announce a historic goal for North America to strive to achieve 50% clean power generation by 2025. We will accomplish this goal through clean energy development and deployment, clean energy innovation and energy efficiency," they said.

North America has the "capacity, resources and moral imperative", they said, to show leadership on building on the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and promoting its early entry into force.

"The Paris Agreement was a turning point for our planet, representing unprecedented accord on the urgent need to take action to combat climate change through innovation and deployment of low-carbon solutions … In recognition of our close ties and shared vision, we commit today to an ambitious and enduring North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership that sets us firmly on the path to a more sustainable future," they said.

To reach this goal, the countries will scale up clean energy through "aggressive domestic initiatives and policies", the leaders said.

Efforts to advance clean energy will also include the development of cross-border transmission projects as well as identifying and implementing options for energy system integration, with a joint study on the impacts of adding more renewables into the North American grid.

As well as emissions from generation, the leaders pledged to promote clean and efficient transportation, accelerating the deployment of "clean" vehicles in government fleets and committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from light- and heavy-vehicles. They also pledged to develop and implement national methane reduction strategies, with Mexico joining Canada and the USA in committing to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

Taking the lead

They also pledged their commitment to the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global temperature increase to below 2°C, reaffirming their commitment to join the agreement this year and calling on all nations to support its entry into force this year. They said they would support "robust implementation" of the Agreement’s provisions on transparency and carbon markets, and pledged to develop "mid-century, long-term low-greenhouse gas emissions development strategies" this year.

The three countries committed to phase out "inefficient fossil fuel subsidies" by 2025 and called on other members of the G-20 group of countries to do the same.

Nuclear power currently accounts for about 20% of the electricity generated in the USA, 17% in Canada and 6% in Mexico.

According to the US Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), about 37% of North America's 2015 energy came from zero-carbon sources. "North America needs zero-carbon nuclear energy, and lots of it. That's the biggest takeaway from the ambitious commitment to achieve a 50% clean electricity supply in North America only nine years from now," NEI president and CEO Marvin Fertel said.

Fertel warned that any reduction in nuclear energy's role - specifically the premature closure of nuclear plants due to "unintended consequences of federal or state energy policies or flawed electricity markets" - would make the 50% clean energy target impossible to achieve by 2025.

"The nuclear energy industry appreciates the recognition by President Obama and the leaders of Canada and Mexico that all zero-carbon sources of energy will be needed to make meaningful reductions in carbon emissions. A portfolio of clean energy technologies and approaches is required, and the inclusion of nuclear energy will help continue the path to long-term grid reliability, affordability for customers and the greenhouse gas reductions necessary to make the new clean power goal a reality. The nuclear industry looks forward to helping achieve this important commitment to a cleaner continent and a cleaner world," he said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News