The year 2024 is shaping up to be the most important ever for climate action — just like 2023 before it and 2022 before that, and so on back through at least the 1980s.

It may be a tired refrain. But in this era of accelerating and compounding crises, the longer we fail to address climate change, the more urgent the problem becomes.

So what trends, events and opportunities should concerned citizens be paying attention to in 2024?

Let’s start with the big picture. The El Niño global weather pattern kicked up last year and is slated to persist into this summer. That will pile warmer natural temperatures on top of the warming humans have caused through our greenhouse gas emissions.

There is a decent chance 2024 will be the first year global average temperatures exceed 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, which was the aspirational limit the world committed to under the Paris Agreement just over eight years ago. Whether or not we hit the threshold in 2024, we can expect another year of unprecedented extreme weather events across the globe.

It will be hard for Canada to top last year’s record-breaking wildfire season — but not impossible. We should also be prepared for more of the “once-in-a-century” heat waves, droughts and floods all too common in every part of the country.

Turning to global climate action, there are reasons for both hope and concern. Total investment in clean energy continues to outpace investment in fossil fuels. The world is definitively shifting away from coal, oil and gas — no matter what cynical Canadian politicians might say — and that progress will continue this year.

The problem is pace. For all the political and financial capital being committed to the clean economy, the world is still investing US$1 trillion into fossil fuels every year. That money is not only making our climate problems worse, but it is also starving other sectors of the capital they need to decarbonize.

For its part, Canada continues to throw fuel on the oil investment fire. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project (TMX), which comes with an estimated public price tag of roughly $35 billion, is slated to begin operations in the first half of this year. It will immediately triple pipeline capacity from the Alberta oilsands to tankers on the West Coast, largely via the territories of Indigenous Peoples who have opposed the project.

As Canadians struggle with a weak economy, it's important to fight back against a fossil fuel industry and its allies trying to undermine meaningful climate action, writes Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood.

Both the Canada Energy Regulator and the International Energy Agency forecast major declines in oil demand in the coming decades, but the short-term forecast is more concerning. Canada is on track to produce more oil than ever before in 2024, in large part due to expanded pipeline capacity.

Even as it cuts the ribbon on TMX, the federal government will continue to advance its climate policy agenda in 2024. Outstanding items of note are the oil and gas sector emissions cap, the clean electricity regulations and the Sustainable Jobs Act.

If the government has any other big ideas in the hopper, we haven’t seen them yet.

The good news is the oil and gas cap and the clean electricity standards have the potential to force a radical shift in the Canadian energy landscape. In theory, they could be used to wind down fossil fuel production and phase out fossil fuel power over the coming decades. Unfortunately, the government is under intense pressure from the fossil fuel industry to weaken both regulations.

The latest drafts of both policies include significant loopholes — what the government calls “compliance flexibility” — for carbon capture and offsets that would permit fossil fuel production and consumption to persist at current levels. Getting these regulations right is crucial, which will make them into political battlegrounds this year.

For its part, the Sustainable Jobs Act amounts to making a plan for workers facing transition due to climate action. It’s a deeply worthwhile priority, but the act as drafted would merely create institutions responsible for developing a transition strategy. Workers and communities that depend on the fossil fuel industry today will have to wait even longer for the federal government to step up with targeted transition support.

As the world keeps heating up and as the global economy continues its too-slow shift away from fossil fuels, governments in Canada need to do more to accelerate the transition here at home in 2024. Getting long-promised environmental policies across the finish line is an important step. An ambitious federal budget would be another.

But there’s a real risk of backsliding, too. The feds’ recent carbon tax exemption for home heating oil, mainly to the benefit of Liberal-voting regions, will no doubt stoke political gamesmanship this year.

We need to be vigilant, especially as Canadians struggle with a weak economy, to ensure meaningful climate action is not further undermined by a fossil fuel industry — and its political allies — who would try to entrench the status quo.

Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood is a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives where he focuses on climate, labour and industrial policy.

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I really question how serious our federal government is about climate change, their actions speak louder than words. It seems our conservative premiers are working against the federal governments on any climate action taken. Lately the oil & gas industry has been on a greenwashing campaign patting themselves on the back about what they are doing to go greener. The carbon capture technology they keep talking about is just pure 100% greenwashing and not even a solution.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry just seem to be ramping up production more, polluting more and greenwashing the public with the help of Danielle Smith, who works for the industry and not the people of Alberta. Everything they do and say are just stalling tactics on doing anything meaningful.

Where is the federal government with challenging these greenwashing ads by the oil & gas industry lately?