Trudeau to get energy and environment award at Houston energy conference

One of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's well-worn talking points is that building the economy and protecting the environment must go hand in hand.

Tonight, at an international energy conference in Houston, he will receive an award for taking that position.

"We recognize that Prime Minister Trudeau has taken a very clear position in terms of integrating energy and environmental concerns and the way that the two interact with each other," said CERAWeek conference chair Daniel Yergin in an interview with CBC News.

"The award will highlight on a global basis what the prime minister is achieving in Canada and what he is conveying really to the world community on how to approach the challenges around energy and environment that the entire planet faces," said Yergin.

The CERAWeek conference, organized by international financial services firm IHS Markit, is an annual event that brings in energy executives, politicians, clean tech companies and policy makers from 60 countries to talk about key issues facing the global energy industry. The topics up for discussion include everything from oil and gas to renewables.

More than 3,500 delegates and 300 members of the media are attending the five-day conference. 

Trudeau will also give the keynote address to the global gathering of energy movers and shakers — the first Canadian prime minister to do so.

'High-profile sales job'

Yergin said that given U.S. President Donald Trump's promise to renegotiate his country's trade agreements, Trudeau's attendance is "very timely."

"I think at this particular time of discussion about trade and investment, to highlight in particular U.S. and Canadian relations is very important."

"It gives [Trudeau] an opportunity to address a global audience," said Yergin. "The words he says here in Houston will really resound around the world."

It could also give Trudeau a chance to do a high-profile sales job for Canada, said Jackie Forrest, director of research for the Calgary-based ARC Energy Research Institute, which examines trends in the energy business. 

Forrest, who is in Houston for the conference, said that even though Canada is a big energy producer, it still doesn't have a big global profile.

"I think it's a great opportunity to get in front of this group and say Canada is a great place to invest. We have some real advantages, we have great resources, we are balancing the economy and the environment," said Forrest in an interview with CBC News.

"I hope he makes a compelling argument for people to bring their capital to Canada."

Canada vs. U.S. on carbon pricing

Forrest said Canada has an advantage over the U.S. right now, partly because of the new federal-provincial climate strategy that includes a price on carbon. She said a carbon price can provide certainty for industry at the same time that the U.S. is changing its regulations on carbon emissions. 

"What's important is you know what the policies are, you've got lots of transparency and you can plan for those policies."

On Friday, Trudeau will take part in a roundtable discussion with industry executives and clean technology leaders on the transition to low-carbon energy sources. The conference has increasingly included discussions on renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Trudeau and former U.S. president Barack Obama were in lockstep on their efforts toward developing a North American low-carbon economy, but that dynamic has changed since Trump was elected.

"With the U.S. stepping back, more countries are looking to Canada to say we need leadership from North America, we need leadership on this issue, and hoping Canada can deliver. So that puts a lot of responsibility on Canada." said Clare Demerse, federal policy adviser for Clean Energy Canada.

There were hints earlier this week about what Trudeau might say to the energy executives on that issue. Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told the conference that Canada isn't going to step away from its long-term plan to reduce emissions and develop a green economy.

We can expect the same message, perhaps with a bit more fanfare, from the prime minister tonight.