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With weeks to go until world leaders descend on Dubai for the UN’s annual climate change negotiations, Quebec is attempting to convince Canada to abandon oil and gas.
Responding to climate change is consistently a high priority for Quebec voters, pushing Premier François Legault to regularly play up his climate credentials. Two years ago, Quebec joined the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) — an international group of countries and sub-national governments committed to phasing out oil and gas production. Now the province is trying to convince other provinces and the federal government to follow suit, as recently reported by Le Devoir.
Legault’s comments that he wants to convince Canada to step up the fight against climate change came in response to a spokesperson for Québec Solidaire calling on him to pressure Ottawa to cut government subsidies to the fossil fuel sector. The spokesperson said Quebec taxpayers were essentially subsidizing an industry that was harming collective efforts to curb greenhouse gas pollution.
Quebec Environment Minister Benoit Charette did not return a request for comment by deadline, but it’s clear the province is forging ahead in the energy transition. Its Crown corporation Hydro-Québec is an energy superpower on the continent and last week published a new strategic plan for a dramatic electricity production increase in what experts see as a vital step for the province to secure a leading position in a decarbonized economy.
Whether Quebec will be effective in convincing others to join BOGA is an open question. As previously reported by Canada’s National Observer, Ottawa opposed Quebec joining the landmark alliance in 2021. BOGA “is not in Canada’s interest, as its aim to phase out the oil and gas sector conflicts with Canadian policy ensuring the sector has a sustainable role in a net-zero world,” reads a briefing note prepared for Natural Resources Canada staff ahead of a meeting with Denmark’s climate change ambassador at COP26, which Canada’s National Observer received through a federal access-to-information request.
This year’s negotiations at COP28 are expected to focus heavily on phasing out fossil fuels. Last year, Canada supported calls to phase out unabated fossil fuels — referring to fossil fuels not using abatement technologies like carbon capture. But this year, 17 heads of state, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Kenyan President William Ruto — who make up a negotiating bloc called the High Ambition Coalition — are urging governments to drop the “unabated” qualifier that could be exploited to justify new oil and gas production.
“Until we stop adding carbon to the atmosphere, the harm we are causing, particularly to the poorest and those least responsible for the climate crisis, will deepen, and the need to continuously adapt will never end. The costs will go up and up. We will count them in human lives,” the group said in a statement in September.
As the annual UN climate change negotiations creep closer, a series of groundbreaking reports reveal huge fossil fuel expansion plans that must be cancelled if the world is to avoid catastrophic global warming. Quebec has some ideas. #cdnpoli
Informing the negotiations this year are authoritative reports about expected oil and gas demand and studies forecasting how much of the planet-scorching fossil fuels are planned to be extracted in the coming years. The findings couldn’t be starker.
On Wednesday, the Stockholm Environment Institute, Climate Analytics, E3G, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the UN Environment Program published the annual “production gap” report, which found governments are currently planning to produce 110 per cent more fossil fuels in 2030 than what is required to hold global warming to 1.5C — the aspirational target of the Paris Agreement. The findings complement a separate study published last month by the International Energy Agency that declared demand for all fossil fuels was set to peak by 2030, highlighting the “unstoppable” energy transition and risks of further fossil fuel expansion.
Taken together, the findings paint a grim picture: as a planet, we’re producing enough fossil fuels to push Earth’s temperature to catastrophic levels while knowing demand is about to collapse.
UN Secretary General António Guterres said Wednesday that the production gap report reveals governments are “literally doubling down on fossil fuel production.”
“COP28 must send a clear signal that the fossil fuel age is out of gas — that its end is inevitable,” he said. “We need credible commitments to ramp up renewables, phase out fossil fuels and boost energy efficiency while ensuring a just, equitable transition.
“Fossil fuels are sending essential climate goals up in smoke. It’s time for change.”
On Tuesday, federal environment commissioner Jerry DeMarco upped the pressure on Canadian policymakers to meaningfully respond to climate change. Across five reports, his office took stock of key policy areas including electric vehicles, marine fisheries and ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The top-level finding was that Canada is set to miss its 2030 emissions reduction target of 40 per cent to 45 per cent below 2005 levels because key policies like capping oil and gas sector emissions are not being prioritized by the Liberal government. That target is Canada’s international commitment under the Paris Agreement.
“While Canada positions itself as a vanguard of climate leadership, the continued expansion of fossil fuel production exposes a critical shortcoming: the Paris Agreement’s inability to hold nations accountable,” Climate Action Network International’s head of global political strategy Harjeet Singh told Canada’s National Observer. “This glaring oversight necessitates the crafting of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to bridge the climate policy void.
“Such a treaty would confront the root of the climate crisis by mandating transparent, accountable actions from countries to stop new fossil fuel exploration and expansion projects, while ensuring a just transition for workers and communities.”