US-Canada-UK relationship key to global climate change fight, COP26 summit
Posted on 20th October 2021 at 22:31
By Sebastian Grace
As world leaders prepare to descend on Glasgow, Scotland, the fundamental commitments remain unclear for the COP26 climate summit.
The role of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom as global leaders in the fight against climate change comes into sharper focus amidst a challenging geopolitical environment and the continued battle against a worldwide pandemic.
The informal alliance between the three countries is defined by long-standing partnerships, consisting of shared commonwealth and colonial histories. Traditionally, this alliance has been a stable one, changing only slightly with each administration.
In recent years, however, as the international community faces its most pressing obstacle to date, impending climate disaster, the strength and nature of British-American-Canadian relations have never been more critical.
In a post-Donald Trump and post-Brexit world, Johnson and Trudeau will be enthused by President Biden’s commitments and unity so far on the world stage. Hope, however, could be misplaced.
Though traditional alliances often hold firm, the importance of Canada and the UK as friends to the US is, in practice, unclear. The relationship between Canada and the United States has traditionally been a strong one. Still, differences in opinion during the Trump administration — notably on climate and trade — put the strength of this friendship to the test.
In an attempt to repair this alliance, President Joe Biden issued a statement last February called the “Roadmap to a Renewed Canada-U.S. Partnership,” detailing a list of policy moves designed to bring the two neighbours together. This plan focuses on collaboration on climate change to achieve the Paris Agreement emission goals, policy and regulation alignment, and building resilience for communities most impacted.
For Boris Johnson, the UK’s Prime Minister, the thorny issue remains the ‘special’ (or awkward) relationship between the US and the UK turning sour. Quick to distance himself from the former President, who once referred to Johnson as ‘British Trump’, a speedy congratulations for the new President Biden was a less than convincing attempt at quieting the apparent comparisons between himself and Donald Trump.
“There’s so much that we want to do together, from security, NATO, to climate change,” Johnson said at the G7 summit in the summer of this year. However, he has publicly stated his desire for the US to do more on climate change, emphasising his frustration that more prosperous countries were failing to financially support poorer ones fighting climate change, and pressing the US to increase their climate change commitments.
However, his comments may fall on deaf ears, as Johnson has slashed the foreign aid budget and withdrawn funding from numerous international agencies.
Each of the three nations carries its version of this inherent tension between eco-friendly policies and economics to the summit, whether that be the fact that oil and natural gas provided over $100 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2020, supporting more than 500,000 jobs across the country, or Boris Johnson’s desire to ‘level up’ the North of England with significant investments including a new coal mine and an expansion of the existing fracking industry.
These missteps, as each country’s leader sets out to join the US in a green new alliance on the world stage, only serve to add pressure and illegitimacy to a summit which Russia’s President Putin and President Xi of China, the world’s largest polluter, plan not to attend.
As neighbors to the North and strong advocates for the ‘special relationship’ across the Atlantic, only time will tell whether the Biden administration will encourage bolstered partnerships between the United States and their traditional allies on central issues such as the fight against climate change.
The upcoming COP26 summit, where over 100 countries and their representatives will meet to discuss a broad range of climate-related issues, is a key test.
Share this post: