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Policy: Environment & Energy

No Keystone XL commitment from North American leaders, but the monarch butterfly will be safe

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Barack Obama,Canada,Mexico,Ashe Schow,Keystone XL,Energy and Environment,Insects,Stephen Harper,Butterflies

At least something important came from the meetings between President Obama, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

It might not have been an agreement to build the Keystone XL pipeline, but the leaders will be working together to preserve the monarch butterfly. It's about time, right?

“[I]n the area of sustainability, we have also agreed to work on the preservation of the monarch butterfly. It is a landmark species in North America,” Peña Nieto said. “This is a species present in our three countries, and we have agreed to work a task force with a presentation from our three countries to preserve the monarch butterfly.”

Now, monarch populations in Mexico's sanctuary have been declining recently -- with a 44 percent drop from a year ago -- but do world leaders really need to step in at this point?

Meanwhile, America's unemployment rate remains high and is only falling due to the number of people who have given up looking for work. Maybe that should be a bigger focus?

Although Obama talked about working with Mexico and Canada to improve trade and the economy, it appears no progress was made on the Keystone XL pipeline.

When asked by a reporter about the pipeline, Obama reiterated the “process” that needs to be followed — the “process” that has taken five years to produce one environmental report; the "process" that even Obama admitted might be seen as laborious.

Obama then brought up the concern over greenhouse gases, even though the State Department found the pipeline would have almost no effect on emissions.

“I said previously that how Keystone impacted greenhouse gas emissions would affect our decision, but, frankly, it has to affect all of our decisions at this stage, because the science is irrefutable,” Obama said.

He failed to point out the fact that Keystone XL isn't a factor in greenhouse gas emissions.

In Harper's response, he mentioned the State Department review and how America and Canada cooperate on the issue of global warming.

“We already cooperate in several sectors in terms of emissions reductions,” Harper said. “But in terms of climate change, I think the State Department report already was pretty definitive on that particular issue.”

Harper also seemingly poked the State Department — and the U.S. — for dragging its feet on the pipeline by highlighting how Canada reformed its review process.

“As you know, a couple years ago we moved to reform our system so that we have a single review wherever possible — a single review, a multi-dimensional review that happens over a fixed timeline,” Harper said. “And I think that is a process that is tremendously useful in giving investors greater certainty in terms of the kind of plans they may have in the Canadian economy.”

The Obama administration should take note.

But hey, the butterflies will be protected, so there’s that. Now if they could just try to protect some jobs ...

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