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Last Wednesday at the Climate Ambition Summit in New York City, UN Secretary General António Guterres told heads of state, “The move from fossil fuels to renewables is happening — but we are decades behind. We must make up for time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels.”
Greed and foot-dragging were on display recently in Canada.
On the heels of record-breaking heat waves and when Canadians were struggling from the worst wildfire season ever recorded, one of Canada’s top oil executives, Rich Kruger, demonstrated that oil and gas companies have zero intention of being part of the solution despite their many attempts at greenwashing when he announced Suncor would be returning to its oil production roots rather than focus on the clean energy transition.
The science is clear: keeping fossil fuels in the ground is key to a livable future. But Canada and other rich countries are doing the opposite. A new Oil Change International report, Planet Wreckers, finds Canada is expected to be the second-largest developer of new oil and gas extraction by 2050.
The report shows that just five Global North countries are responsible for 51 per cent of carbon dioxide pollution that would be generated by new oil and gas extraction to 2050. Canada — along with the United States, Australia, Norway and the United Kingdom — is listed among the five “climate hypocrites” that account for the majority of the emissions threat. These countries have the greatest financial means and responsibility to lead a fast and fair global phaseout of production, yet instead are the biggest culprits in adding more planet-wrecking fuel to the fire.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke on Wednesday at the Climate Ambition Summit, he once again positioned Canada as a climate leader.
Last week's marches to end fossil fuels show we need to unite to put an end to these primary drivers of the climate crisis, writes Claire O'Manique #ClimateAmbitionSummit #ClimateCrisis #cdnpoli
But his words feel empty when one recalls that the federal government has continued to approve or subsidize major new pipelines and LNG export projects to enable the expansion of extraction, including Coastal GasLink, Trans Mountain, and LNG Canada, while approving new oil and gas fields like the Bay du Nord, which has been now been put on hold.
All these projects have been met with legal challenges and protests over their climate impacts and for violating the sovereignty of First Nations, which continue to bear the brunt of the toxic pollution and climate impacts associated with oil and gas extraction.
Canada can and must do better.
The Canadian government has promised to deliver a cap on fossil fuel emissions this fall. After decades of missing emissions reduction targets, Canada needs to stop giving the oil and gas industry a free pass to pollute our climate. But it remains to be seen if the cap will have teeth, or if politicians taking an ever-increasing number of lobbying meetings from the fossil fuel industry will cave to the industry’s attempts to weaken the cap.
Allowing the expansion of oil and gas production would make it impossible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 C, a crucial threshold for avoiding the worst impacts of climate breakdown. If Canada and other countries persist with new extraction plans, this will lock in more than a dangerous 2 C of warming.
It’s never been clearer that we need to unite to put an end to fossil fuels, the primary driver of the climate crisis. Throughout history, people have come together across diverse backgrounds and beliefs to solve major problems and build a better world. That’s why it was so inspiring on Sept. 15 and Sept. 17 to see thousands of people in cities across Canada take part in the March to End Fossil Fuels — joining 600,000 people around the world demanding climate action.
As we said in our speeches and protest signs at the march, our global leaders are either with us or the fossil fuel industry. We can power our future with affordable and locally generated renewable energy from the wind and sun, creating millions of jobs and healthy neighbourhoods for generations to come. It's time to stand together, united for an equitable future, and end the fossil fuel era.
Prime Minister Trudeau, we need more than lofty speeches. We need concrete steps to end the destructive expansion of oil and gas and ensure clean air and water for all.
- Implement a strong emissions cap on oil and gas. Don’t weaken or delay the cap.
- Stop approving climate-damaging new oil and gas projects.
- Stop all subsidies — including domestic public finance — for climate-damaging oil and gas projects.
- Stop subsidies in dangerous distractions like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and fossil hydrogen, which only serve to prolong the life of the climate-damaging fossil fuel industry.
- Scale up investments in renewable energy.
Canadians are watching — and waiting.
Claire O’Manique is a public finance analyst at Oil Change International, where she works to shift public finance away from fossil fuels and to a just clean energy transition. She currently lives in Vancouver, B.C.