The United States and Canada set themselves on a joint path March 10 to tackle climate change in the Arctic along with committing the two countries to cut methane emissions over the next decade by 40 percent to 45 percent below 2012 levels.
A joint statement was released by the White House ahead of a meeting between President Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office.
The agreement said oil and gas exploration in the Arctic must align with science-based standards and include "robust and effective" well control and emergency response measures.
It said the two leaders are also resolved to sign the climate deal reached at the Paris summit in December "as soon as possible" which they consider a "turning point" in global efforts to combat climate change.
Under the agreement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada will immediately develop regulations governing methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources, with the EPA requiring companies operating in the U.S. to provide information about their emissions.
Canada said it "intends to publish an initial phase of proposed regulations by early 2017," working in collaboration with its provinces, territories and indigenous peoples.
The joint plan also involves cooperating on clean energy through collaboration on expanding, wind, solar and other renewable energy sources and on research.
It said the new partnership will "embrace the opportunities and to confront the challenges in the changing Arctic."
That includes protecting at least 17 percent of land area and 10 percent of marine areas by 2020 and ideally going beyond those goals by engaging with other Arctic nations to develop a pan-Arctic marine protection area network.
The plan also aims to build a sustainable Arctic economy by allowing commercial activities only when the highest safety and environmental standards are met. Shipping routes will be developed to have as little impact as possible on the environment.
Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams said Obama and Trudeau have set an "example for other countries to follow in combating climate change and protecting the fragile environment of the Arctic for the native peoples who live there."
- GARY PARK