On Tuesday evening, I held a town hall on ending fossil fuel subsidies to hear from Canadians concerned with the Liberal government’s approach to the climate crisis.
Climate Action Network moderated a panel between MPs from four parties, including Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (Liberal), Mike Morrice (Green), Monique Pauzé (Bloc) and myself (NDP). More than a hundred people from across the country called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies.
We are in a climate emergency and the federal government is throwing fuel on the flames. Despite record-breaking heat waves, extreme weather and intensifying wildfires, the Liberals continue to hand out billions of dollars to big oil and gas companies
Now is the time for significant investments in proven climate solutions, a renewable energy future, and support for workers who will be affected by the transition. Instead, the Liberal government continues to hand over taxpayer dollars to the same fossil fuel companies that are fuelling the climate crisis.
Canada has provided more public financing for fossil fuels than any other G20 country, averaging $14 billion annually between 2018 and 2020. The federal government continues to give massive handouts to oil companies as they roll in record profits and their CEOs take home millions in bonuses.
Compare that to support for renewable energy in Canada. Renewables have received about $1 billion per year. In the midst of a climate emergency, the government gave 14 times more support to the oil and gas industry than to renewable energy.
Let that sink in.
What people are reading
The government has repeatedly promised to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies by 2023, but the Liberals are headed in the wrong direction with carbon capture subsidies to the oil and gas sector, helping the industry greenwash its continued pollution and directing scarce funds to increased fossil fuel production instead of building a renewable energy industry.
The Liberals will try to claim that this is not a subsidy. At least not by their own definition.
In the study I am spearheading on fossil fuel subsidies at the Environment and Sustainable Development Committee, we have heard from numerous experts that all subsidies, public financing and other financial supports provided to the oil and gas sector delay climate action and put our emissions targets at risk — and that includes the CCUS tax credit, which, yes, is a subsidy.
As the NDP environment critic, I know the dangers of the government’s delays and distractions. The climate crisis is hitting harder and faster than scientists predicted, and after a year when extreme weather events took hundreds of lives and where the insured damage for severe weather events across Canada in 2021 reached $2.1 billion, it is clear the cost of climate inaction is already too high. But the federal government is not only failing to invest in climate solutions at the scale that matches the crisis, it is also throwing billions at companies that are increasing emissions.
The Canadian oil and gas sector is eager to appear as a partner in the fight against climate change. But oil and gas companies’ “net-zero” plans are grossly misaligned with Canada’s climate commitments and rely on billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize its greenwashed plans, such as the $2.6-billion tax credit for unproven carbon capture, utilization and storage technology that is used to justify increased production and higher emissions.
This is not to say companies shouldn’t be developing and building carbon capture technology to reduce the emissions intensity of oil and gas production. But the responsibility to pay for carbon capture should fall on these profitable and polluting industries, not on Canadians.
Unfortunately, the government ignored the advice of 400 scientists, academics and energy system modellers, who urged the finance minister to exclude the oil and gas sector from the carbon capture tax credit, refusing to even meet with them.
Instead, the Liberals decided to listen to oil and gas lobbyists, who they meet with on average over 1,500 times a year, or six times every workday.
The government needs to stop catering to the companies who benefit from delayed climate action and start listening to experts — to the IPCC and the world’s top scientists who have published report after report with dire warnings about the crisis we face — and to the solutions that are available should we choose to act.
And they need to start listening to Canadians who are increasingly feeling the effects of the climate crisis and expect their government to act with the urgency required.
I am calling on the government to eliminate all subsidies to the oil and gas sector before the end of 2022 and redirect those funds towards a just, renewable energy transition and supports for workers.
And I’m calling on them to make a formal and binding commitment to not introduce any new fossil fuel subsidies, and to ensure all government spending aligns with keeping temperatures below 1.5 C.
It's time to stop funding fossil fuels and start funding climate solutions.
Laurel Collins is the NDP critic for the environment and climate change and the MP for Victoria.