Let's make a deal
It’s been a short but busy week: Jody Wilson-Raybould was awarded British Columbia’s highest honour. The feds are facing heat for returning pipeline equipment to a Russian gas company. Only three of five leadership candidates showed up to the Conservative Party’s final debate. And the head of the United Nations has still had it with the fossil fuel industry.
This week, I've got a brief recap of my colleague John Woodside's report on the energy solution Canada pitched to European delegates at last year's COP26 climate conference — months before Russia invaded Ukraine. Read on to find out what federal officials hoped to discuss and what could happen next as Europe seeks to get off Russian fossil fuels.
As always, you can let me know what you think of this newsletter at [email protected].
Have a great weekend and stay cool!
— Dana Filek-Gibson
Top image caption: UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks at the opening ceremony for COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, last November. Photo by Karwai Tang via COP26 / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Looking for our reads of the week? You can find them at the bottom of this email.
A fossil fuel pitch at a climate conference
When he took to the podium at the start of last year’s COP26 climate conference, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres didn’t mince words.
“Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink,” he told the audience. “We face a stark choice: Either we stop it — or it stops us.”
For the next two weeks, world leaders, diplomats and policymakers hashed out promises to cut methane emissions from oil and gas and end deforestation. Quebec signed on to a pledge to end fossil fuel exploration within its borders; Canada didn’t.
And in at least some of the meetings that took place, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and his team promoted Canadian natural gas to Germany, the Netherlands and the European Union, among others, my colleague John Woodside reports.
Briefing materials, which Canada’s National Observer received through an access-to-information request, suggest federal officials touted the Canadian fossil fuel as a solution to European “energy security” at the climate conference, months before the invasion of Ukraine threw a spotlight on concerns about Russian oil and gas.
The documents mainly focus on LNG — natural gas that’s been cooled to -162 C so it can be transported overseas in liquid form. Ever since the war started, Europe has been scrambling to get off Russian gas, which makes up 40 per cent of its supply. Canada has been waiting in the wings, alongside several other countries, driving a “gold rush” of new natural gas projects around the world.
It’s not clear how Canada’s LNG pitch went over back in November, but Europe — namely Germany — has certainly embraced the idea since then. Later this month, the country’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Canada for an expected announcement on East Coast energy. There’s no word yet on what that news will be, but the Canadian government has reportedly met with folks behind at least two proposed LNG projects in the region — one of which has a US$4.5-billion loan guarantee in principle from the German government and a deal with one of the country’s utilities to buy half of what it produces.
Canadians, on the other hand, aren’t necessarily so enthused with the idea. According to an Abacus Data poll from June, only three in 10 Canadians support a new LNG export terminal on the East Coast. Respondents were split on whether such a project would actually help Europe: 32 per cent said it would, 34 per cent thought it was “pointless.”
An East Coast LNG project could also be too little too late, says Niklas Höhne, climate scientist and professor at Wageningen University.
“Any plans for Canada to build new LNG export facilities and related pipelines would take longer than the few years when Europe's gas demand is expected to drop,” he said in a statement. The European Union plans to ditch Russian fossil fuels and speed up its transition to green energy by 2027.
“Canada shouldn't cloak attempts at locking in new oil and gas infrastructure in language about helping Europe.”
Reads of the week
What else we're up to
Conservation meets true crime in The Salmon People. Alexandra Morton moved to Canada to find and study a family of whales. But when they eventually left the B.C. coast, Morton didn’t. She learned something was very wrong. Not with the whales — with the wild salmon.
A new podcast co-produced by Canada's National Observer and investigative journalist Sandra Bartlett, The Salmon People tells the story of an existential threat to the West Coast's wild salmon. Look for it on iTunes starting Tuesday, Aug. 9.