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Trudeau, Trump avoid climate change talk


OTTAWA—Standing next to President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute yesterday to Canada's ability to negotiate environmental treaties with the U.S., such as the . . . 1991 Air Quality Agreement.

As for the 2015 Paris Accord to combat climate change, the one Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, lauded the prime minister for helping forge, Trudeau made no mention of that during his visit to Washington—at least not in public.

“We've fought in conflict zones together, negotiated environmental treaties together, including 1991's historic Air Quality Agreement,” Trudeau said as he praised Canada-U.S. co-operation.

In addition to that reference to the air quality pact, there also was a renewed commitment to enhance energy co-operation in the Great Lakes border region and on energy projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline.

But there was a noticeable downplaying of the climate change initiatives that marked Trudeau's first year in power with a much more environmentally-friendly Obama.

They included joint initiatives to put environmental protection front and centre in Arctic-related matters—a commitment Obama and Trudeau announced after their White House meeting last March and reiterated again in December.

Yesterday's muted climate message came as no surprise to Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who supported Trudeau's climate change efforts in Paris.

“There is definitely coded language that suggests that climate action is not off the table," said May, who called Trudeau's meeting with Trump "a good start,” especially considering Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's raucous phone call with the president.

She said it “assists the whole world” if Trudeau eventually can bring Trump around to risks from climate change—the way it took Brian Mulroney several years to convince Ronald Reagan that an acid rain treaty was needed between the two countries.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said she was surprised the Paris agreement didn't arise in Washington “because my understanding is that climate change is Mr. Trudeau's number-one priority.”

“Seemingly, this issue was not discussed,” added NDP foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere.

“I think it's a letdown.”

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