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US-Mexico-Canada Aim for 50% Clean Power by 2025, But Where is 'Real Action'?

'To actually reach 50% clean energy by 2025 requires making room for real keeping fossil fuels in the ground'

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and U.S. President Barack Obama meet in Washington, D.C. in January 2015. (Photo: Presidencia de la República Mexicana/flickr/cc)

U.S. President Barack Obama, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are poised to commit to a new plan that will require their countries to produce 50 percent of their power from clean sources by 2025—drawing praise and caution from climate advocates who say they will believe it when they see it.

To achieve that goal, the leaders are expected to announce Wednesday from the "Three Amigos" summit in Ottawa this week, the countries will amp up investments in wind and solar, as well as pursue more questionable measures like nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage.

Environmentalists said the announcement was a positive step, though it did not amount to "real action" against the climate crisis.

May Boeve, executive director of the climate advocacy group, said, "This is a big step forward in the fight against climate change. But let's be clear: declaring ambitious goals like these, or the ones world governments made in Paris, is not the same as taking real action that scientists say is necessary to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of global warming."

Boeve added that the pledge must be seen in context of the Obama administration's failed "all of the above" approach to energy policy, and that the so-called Three Amigos' bold objective can only be reached if fossil fuel development on federal land and water is brought to an end.

Killing the Messenger

"To actually reach 50% clean energy by 2025 requires making room for real investment in renewable energy infrastructure by keeping fossil fuels in the ground," she said. "Taking offshore drilling in the Gulf and the Arctic off the table are essential no-brainers if this White House is serious about delivering action on climate that matches its top-line goals and rhetoric."

According to Reuters, the 50 percent goal is a jump from "current collective clean power levels of about 37 percent, and will require the most ambition from the United States, which produces about 75 percent of the countries' power."

But the most pertinent point, as Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh said Tuesday, is that "[s]hifting half of America's electricity to clean energy sources is not only achievable—it's essential."

"Avoiding the worst effects of climate change demands nothing less. But we must do it the right way, and that means ramping up our reliance on cost-effective renewable wind and solar power, energy efficiency and other 21st century technologies," she said.

Obama's climate policies have historically been met with some resistance. One of the most notable instances of this occurred in February, when the U.S. Supreme Court delivered an unexpected ruling that blocked the implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would require states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from coal-powered plants by a third by 2030 from 2005 levels.

The White House has said it believes the CPP will survive the legal challenge.

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