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Fighting climate change or funding fossil fuels? America wants it 'both ways': U.S. ambassador

The U.S. Ambassador to Canada says America “absolutely wants to have it both ways” when it comes to fighting climate change while pursuing fossil fuel projects.

With just days to spare before a potential default crisis, the U.S. Senate passed a deal struck by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to suspend the country’s debt ceiling until 2025.

The move prevents a default that could have had cataclysmic knock-on effects for other countries and economies — including Canada — which together hold the United States’ $31.4 trillion debt.

But the deal sees both Republicans and Democrats make concessions, including a suite of conservative priorities, namely new rules that will make it easier for both fossil fuel and renewable energy projects to get licences.

Ambassador David Cohen told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos, in an interview airing Sunday, that while his president considers climate change to be an “existential threat,” quitting fossil fuels altogether is not realistic in the immediate short term, especially while energy security is part of the equation.

“The United States absolutely wants to have it both ways,” he said. “Climate change is an existential threat. We have to move as quickly as we can to wean ourselves off fossil fuels to make our energy consumption cleaner.

“But that does not mean that we can afford to turn off fossil fuels immediately,” he added. “We're going to be using fossil fuels for a very long time. We have to make the use of those fossil fuels cleaner and we have to focus on things that may, in addition to climate change, also be existential threats.”

Cohen cited as an example the need for many countries — including the United States — to be less reliant on Russian oil and the energy of other “unfriendly players.”

“Climate change, energy security, energy sufficiency is an incredibly complicated question. And it's not a one-size-fits-all approach in dealing with those issues,” he said.

Cohen added the debt ceiling deal also includes a “big win for climate change,” namely that Republican clawbacks to the Inflation Reduction Act — which offers billions of dollars in clean energy incentives south of the border — were not included in the final agreement.

Cohen said he “never doubted” there would be a deal on the debt ceiling, because it was “too important.”

“Democracy is about compromise, and it doesn't mean that you can walk into every complicated issue and have a prepackaged solution that's available,” he said. “You have to demonstrate a little bit of patience. Let the process work its way through.”


Cohen also weighed in on the Republican primary race, with former vice-president Mike Pence and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie expected to throw their hats in the ring this week.

He said while he tries to “do less” politics in his current role as ambassador — and it’s therefore not his job to worry about specific presidential candidates — he has a “supreme amount of confidence in the American voting public,” and he’s “sort of not worried about anyone.”

“I remind people that if you go back to the beginning of the of the election cycle in 2016, the absolute front runners were Jeb Bush and Rudy Giuliani,” Cohen said. “If we were having this conversation then, you'd be asking what I think about Rudy Giuliani as a president. And for the record, having worked with Rudy Giuliani, I would have warned you, at least off the record, that he might be a bit of a lunatic.

“But the point is, when it came time for the election, neither one of them was in the picture,” he said.



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