This article outlines some of the climate change issues that are of common interest to both countries and how the relationship between them will affect those interests. In a related article on January 22, Under Biden, America will be leader in the climate fight – and that changes everything, Radwanski outlined some of the challenges facing President Biden as he moves to establish climate change initiatives as a priority. It also delineates some impacts that those initiatives will have on Canada.

Getting Started

Introduction to the article (perhaps by having everyone read it)

Recently, the federal Liberal government announced some high-profile climate change initiatives but these initiatives were taken in isolation from the United States. During the Trump years, Canada was left to go it alone as Trump generally moved to offset any climate initiatives that had been established during the previous Obama administration and took such actions as withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and cancelling many pieces of environmental protection legislation. This meant that, essentially, there was no concerted North American effort to address climate change. That all changed, however, with the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States. Canada is now joined by an active climate change partner, who, if the stated aims and objectives are realized, will force Canada to work hard to keep up. There will be some needed give and take between the two countries, as witnessed by the recent American cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline project but essentially the two countries are now “on the same page” in their realization of the urgent need to address climate change.

So, what will happen? On some issues, such as automobile emission standards, Canada faces the need to remain competitive with American standards, whereas in other areas their approaches and strategies can be entirely different. How will these two nations relate? What commonalities are required? What shared objectives are there? What differences remain? These are questions that the next few years will answer. This lesson will have the students use the two articles as preliminary background information and ask them to identify what shared and different initiatives are likely to emerge as the countries embark on their plans to address climate change. It will also ask the students to identify what environmental actions they hope will emerge over the next four years and to monitor developments as they occur.

Subject Area(s) covered

Environmental studies, world issues, politics, international studies

New Terms to explain

Existential challenge, Paris Agreement

Materials Needed

Access to the articles for the students

Study and Discussion Activity

Key things students can learn from this lesson

  • Climate change initiatives as identified by both Canada and the United States;
  • The challenges facing each nation to achieve their stated goals;
  • The areas of cooperation that will be needed.

Action (here’s how we’ll do it)

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students if they think that, because of the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States, things will get better between the United States and Canada.
  • Ask them to identify areas in which they believe relationships will improve and explain why.
  • Once a list has been compiled, indicate to them that the focus of the lesson will be on environmental issues relative to the two countries.
  • Ask them to identify what they believe will be some of the challenges facing the two nations as they attempt to implement their environmental agendas.
  • With this as background, have them read the two articles.

Consolidation of Learning

  • Through a plenary session (either virtual or in person) allow them time to ask any questions they may have or offer opinions as appropriate based on what they have just read.
  • Direct them now, as individuals, to select one environmental initiative and, for that selection, do the following:
    • Identify the initiative or objective.
    • Outline what efforts each country is making in that area.
    • Explain any potential mutual cooperation that may be possible.
    • Clarify any issues in that area that could be problematic between the two countries.
    • Delineate what they hope will be the positive outcome over the next few years.
  • Indicate to them that they are to be prepared to report their ideas, either in a small group breakout situation or in a full class situation. (That decision is up to the teacher, given current classroom situations.)
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria

The students will:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of some of the areas that the two countries are targeting in their efforts to address climate change;
  • Be able to articulate areas that are likely to be contentious between the two countries:
  • Explain what would be indicators of success over the next few years

Confirming Activities

  • Continue to monitor their chosen issue over the next few months by checking news reports that deal with the issue and report any progress or problems to the class at a predetermined time.

Helpful Internet Searches

Activities to do together

  • Students can explain their issue to others, in either a group or breakout situation, outlining desired outcomes and obstacles to achieving those goals.