The new year has kicked off with Alberta’s premier and environment minister up in arms over the federal government’s yet-to-be-released Just Transition Act.
The Liberals’ bill was originally pitched as a way to “ensure energy workers and communities can shape their own futures” by giving them access to the training, support and new opportunities needed to succeed in the clean economy. But Alberta politicians are raising concerns about the legislation signalling a possible phaseout of the oil and gas sector.
Premier Danielle Smith panned the government’s just transition plan as “ill-conceived” and “short-sighted” in a tweet posted Jan. 3 after Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told CBC News the long-awaited legislation will be tabled early this year.
Smith’s repeated assertions that the federal government wants to shut down the oil and gas sector clash with comments Wilkinson made late last year.
“This global shift to a low-carbon future can be accomplished without phasing out Canada’s oil and gas sector,” Wilkinson told the House of Commons on Nov. 14 after being asked about just transition consultations by Conservative MP Pat Kelly of Calgary Rocky Ridge.
Wilkinson went on to say the cause of climate change “is not fossil fuels themselves but the carbon emissions associated with producing and burning them,” and that “Canada’s challenge is to aggressively reduce those emissions because hydrocarbons will continue to have a role to play in a net-zero economy.”
What people are reading
Natural Resources Canada’s just transition webpage and discussion paper do not mention the words “oil and gas” at all, and the paper only includes one explicit reference to the “clean energy transition” in the context of mining.
“With an election looming (in Alberta), I think it's very difficult for the (United Conservative Party) to accept anything from the federal government that implies that there's going to be a transition. They've adopted the strategy of running in the election against the federal government,” Lisa Young, a political scientist at the University of Calgary, told Canada’s National Observer.
When asked about the ongoing just transition conversation, Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley told reporters: “We need to perhaps move away a little bit from the debate that seems to be developing over the use of language and instead focus on the object.”
The objective, Notley said, “must be to support the growth of jobs within our oil and gas sector” focused on reducing emissions to ensure Canada is “well-placed to be the market of choice internationally.”
The federal and Alberta governments align in a lot of ways, at least at a big-picture level, despite Smith’s squabbles with Ottawa, said Kathryn Harrison, a climate policy researcher and professor of political science at the University of British Columbia.
“Both the federal and provincial governments have this sort of fanciful idea that the last barrel of oil will be produced in Canada,” said Harrison. She pointed to the International Energy Agency’s 2021 World Energy Outlook report, which projects that if countries follow through on their current climate pledges, Canadian oil production drops 43 per cent by 2050, worse than the global average. The same is true for Canadian gas production: the IEA expects it to decline more steeply than the global average.
There are more reasons climate researchers, including Harrison, don’t buy arguments that Canada can produce the last barrel of oil. Harrison said Canada’s oil is generally more costly to extract than other sources and although government subsidies for carbon capture technology can lower the production emissions, other jurisdictions can do the same.
“The idea that the rest of the world’s industry isn't playing the same game, I think, just ends up being a race to the bottom with taxpayers holding the bag,” Harrison said.
We have lost years and years of time denying Canada’s oil and gas exports will be challenged by global action on climate change — years that could have been spent planning for a transition, said Harrison.
“I don't see how we can have an … intellectually honest (and) practical conversation about just transition in Canada without naming the oil and gas industry,” she said.
The Liberals first promised a Just Transition Act in 2019. More recently, Wilkinson has described the legislation as an action plan for “sustainable jobs,” rather than a “just transition.” Ian Cameron, director of communications for Natural Resources Canada, confirmed to Canada’s National Observer that the minister “will be advancing the federal government’s work on Sustainable Jobs” early this year.
“The term ‘just transition’ plays very well with environmentally concerned voters, but that ‘T-word’ — transition — is acknowledging the reality … that certain sectors are going to see decline,” said Harrison. “That's the point that we've been in denial about.”
If the world hopes to meet its climate goals and protect the planet, there must be a swift transition away from fossil fuels, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. When the IPCC report was released, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said countries increasing fossil fuel production are “truly dangerous radicals” and called investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure “moral and economic madness.”
The federal government walks a “very fine line” on energy issues, said Young. On the one hand, it has positioned itself as supporting meaningful reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and, on the other hand, as supporters of the oil industry, said Young, pointing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2018 decision to “rescue” the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which is now likely to cost taxpayers billions more.
Smith did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.
Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer
If Ms Smith is concerned
If Ms Smith is concerned about the implications of terminology, perhaps she should start with the Alberta War Room.
Natural Resources Minister
Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson: “This global shift to a low-carbon future can be accomplished without phasing out Canada’s oil and gas sector.”
Alberta can have its cake and eat it too. Fantasy and wishful thinking.
In reality, Canada’s O&G sector is bent on expansion. Impossible to reconcile increasing production with lower emissions.
"Wilkinson went on to say the cause of climate change 'is not fossil fuels themselves but the carbon emissions associated with producing and burning them.'"
Carbon capture (CCS) captures a tiny fraction of production emissions at high cost to taxpayers, and captures not a single molecule from the 80–90% of emissions generated from a barrel of oil downstream at the consumer end.
The O&G industry and its financial backers are fundamentally opposed to an energy shift that impairs industry profits and strands its assets.
Wilkinson's Liberal government is committed to greenwashing fossil fuels, while funnelling billions of public dollars to the largely foreign-owned O&G industry reporting record profits.
They aren't committed to
They aren't committed to greenwashing as such, they're committed to maintaining power long enough to take on big oil "sustainably," as such. Talk about a fine line; with all those conservative premiers it's a tightrope. NONE of them really "get" climate change; it's the kind of new information they just refuse to allow in, so in that clearly addled state, they have to be handled with kid gloves, something Liberals are capable of. What I'm wondering is how Rachel Notley is going to approach this at this point; it sounds like she's going to also appear to appease, sidestep, and focus on the cost of living like Smith is currently pretending to do by mailing out cheques to everyone.
Wilkinson: “This global shift
Wilkinson: “This global shift to a low-carbon future can be accomplished without phasing out Canada’s oil and gas sector.”
Wilkinson: The cause of climate change "is not fossil fuels themselves but the carbon emissions associated with producing and burning them."
When the IPCC issued its latest report, then-Environment Minister "Wilkinson reaffirmed Canada's commitment to phasing out fossil fuels and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but said achieving that target will require money generated by fossil fuels."
PM Trudeau has long insisted that fossil fuels will pay for the transition:
"There is growth to be had in the oilsands. They will be developing more fossil fuels while there's a market for it, while we transition off fossil fuels." (2016)
"Our challenge is to use today's wealth to create tomorrow's opportunity." (2016)
Trudeau (2017): "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."
Then-Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr (2018): "Our plan is to use this time of transition to Canada's advantage by building the infrastructure to get our resources to global markets and using the revenues to invest in clean forms of energy."
Up until the last minute before Pres. Biden cancelled Keystone XL, the Trudeau govt was still advertising that Canada's climate plan had room for new export pipelines transporting oilsands bitumen.
Kirsten Hillman, Canada's ambassador to the U.S.: "Keystone XL fits within Canada's climate plan"
"…And, between Trudeau's 2017 speech promoting tar sands expansion to fossil fuel CEOs in Houston, Jonathan Wilkinson's social media looking like a Shell advertising campaign, or Seamus O'Regan forming a secret committee with Big Oil during the pandemic, this lobbying seems to have an effect. With this, it's fair to be worried that Trudeau and his cabinet are already drinking the fossil fuel kool-aid when it comes to the timeline for a transition. After all, O'Regan is already using their talking points.
"…we need to be clear-eyed about the fact Big Oil is still working to derail serious climate action and the just transition is the latest thing to land in their sights."
"Don't 'bothsides' the just transition" (National Observer, 2021)
The Liberals' "plan" is premised on fossil fuel expansion. Betting on global failure to take action. In defiance of the IEA and every IPCC report.
If that's not greenwashing, what is?
Trotting out the same things
Trotting out the same things said from even 5-6 years ago isn't really relevant though because much has evolved in that time i.e. even basic bloody acknowledgement of climate change has finally increased, but when you look at the general intransigence and stubborn refusal of people we've seen, even around the clear and PRESENT danger of covid? It's been an eye-opener.
And you simply can not reasonably dismiss those 7 conservative premiers, as I keep pointing out.
The Liberals have not changed
The Liberals have not changed their tune or their plans.
Wilkinson's first two statements date from Nov. 14, 2022.
Then-Environment Minister Wilkinson's remarks on the day the latest IPCC report came out date from August 2021:
"Ottawa says it must maximize revenue from the Trans Mountain pipeline to fight climate change" (CBC, 2021)
"The minister responsible for Canada's role in fighting climate change is defending his government's purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline after a landmark UN report said the continued use of fossil fuels is pushing the climate toward catastrophe.
"Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson said today that revenue generated by the project will help Canada achieve its long-term climate objectives.
"Wilkinson reaffirmed Canada's commitment to phasing out fossil fuels and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but said achieving that target will require money generated by fossil fuels.
"'Canada needs to ensure that in the context of that transition, it's extracting full value for its resources and using that money to push forward in terms of reducing emissions."
Ambassador Hillma insistence that "Keystone XL fits within Canada's climate plan" dates from January 2021.
The National Observer article dates from 2021.
The Trudeau Liberals' messaging on climate, however incoherent and contradictory, has been consistent since they took office in 2015.
Canada's energy future / "climate plan", based on fossil fuel expansion, was decided long before Trudeau came to power. Canada's plan to fail was worked out years ago.
"The Rise and Fall of Trudeau's 'Grand Bargain' on Climate" (The Tyee)
"Justin Trudeau's grand bargain with Big Oil exposed in Donald Gutstein's The Big Stall" (The Georgia Straight)
Geoff Dembicki: "How Trudeau's Broken Promises Fuel the Growth of Canada's Right" (The Tyee)
It's simply revisionist history — gaslighting — to blame the Liberals' climate failure on Conservative premiers. The Liberals own it.
The big problem is the O&G
The big problem is the O&G industry and their lobbyists.
Led by CEO Lisa Baiton, CAPP is the fossil fuel industry’s chief lobby organization in Canada. It wields a multimillion-dollar budget and represents 41 oil and gas companies, big and small, involved in fossil fuel exploration and extraction. Fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change.
From 2009 to 2019, CAPP’s in-house lobbyists averaged 117 meetings per year. That figure more than doubled to reach an all-time high of 269 meetings in 2020 — more meetings than business days in the year — underscoring Big Oil’s full-court press. Those 269 meetings happened on 149 unique days. The Guardian revealed in July that the oil and gas sector has made an average of $1 trillion a year in pure profit for the last 50 years. These vast sums have provided the power to “buy every politician, every system” and delay action on the climate crisis, said Prof. Aviel Verbruggen, the author of that analysis... National Observer
The Guardian revealed in July that the oil and gas sector has made an average of $1 trillion a year in pure profit for the last 50 years. These vast sums have provided the power to “buy every politician, every system” and delay action on the climate crisis, said Prof. Aviel Verbruggen, the author of that analysis.
The energy crisis is proving extremely profitable for oil companies, even without subsidies. In the first six months of 2022, five leading companies — BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total — made adjusted profits of nearly $100 billion. The figure is the same sum that rich nations had promised to poor nations to help deal with the climate crisis by 2020, but failed to deliver.
Wow. At what point does
Wow. At what point does lobbying become harassment?
What strikes me as funny is
What strikes me as funny is that you can't even talk about a managed transition at all, except as a government project.
NO industry EVER had a "transition". They just fired people. Did Detroit have a "just transition" from being the car-industry centre to moving all the jobs to Mexico and Asia? "Roger and Me" is the 30-year-old story of THAT "transition".
Or coal mines - that "transition" is in "Brassed Off" with Ewan McGregor. Those transitions are all minimum-severance, and coal towns and Detroit shrinking by half.
That's the transition that industry is already planning, be sure of it. They always are. What "transition" did 100,000 Albertans get when MBS and Putin crashed the price of oil in 2014? What transition did *I* get in 1981? None, zero, zip, nada.
Trudeau is handing the industry a huge sloppy kiss to speak of this as a "transition". He should be saying this:
"Renewables and storage have dropped 90% in price over the last dozen years. We are assured by scientists, product development engineers, and businessmen, that more cost-reductions are coming, will continue for 5-10 years yet; that production will skyrocket, that resource limitations will be overcome. We must therefore prepare for a future where relentless economic pressures will drive fossil-fuel based power plants and vehicles from the market, whether we subsidize them or not. All our subsidies are only hastening a transition that business will drive, as our great free markets seek maximum efficiency.
That transition will devastate the oil and gas workers, as the industry has devastated its own labour force during hard times before, in 2014 and in 1981, the only year that Calgary ever shrank in population. We are therefore preparing now, for what the oil and gas industry will inevitably do. We are preparing an off-ramp, with the possibilities of even better, more-exciting careers for them."
Good point, so what actually
Good point, so what actually has to be "managed" is the politics.
It's quite possible that the Liberals ARE saying all that stuff but it wouldn't matter to the defiantly deaf ears of the likes of Danielle Smith, Scott Moe, etc.
Some may posit - "Danielle
Some may posit - "Danielle Smith seems only to seek refuge in some cartoon. Lesson learned, so bring back the jester, the "truth", doesn't care who told it." So bring it, all Observer cartoonists - a blessing for all.