At the 11th hour
Negotiations at COP27 have gone into overtime, with delegates still working to hammer out a deal. As countries work to reach a final agreement, here are three big takeaways from Canada’s role at this year’s UN climate conference:
1. Canada backed a fund to cover climate losses... As negotiations went into overtime, Canada threw its support behind a European Union proposal compensating vulnerable countries for irreversible loss and damage brought on by the climate crisis — with a few conditions. My colleague John Woodside describes a “vocabulary battle” underway to decide whether the proposed fund would be paid for by “developed countries” for “developing countries” or by “large emitters” for the “most vulnerable.”
A loss and damage deal is widely considered to be one of two markers of success at this year’s summit (I’ll get to the other one next). This year was the first time loss and damage made it onto a COP agenda, but vulnerable countries have been raising the issue for years, along with the delayed promise made by rich countries to deliver $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020. With that deadline come and gone, wealthy nations are under increasing pressure to pony up.
Ultimately, there’s no question: vulnerable countries need cash to deal with the climate crisis. But some argue money isn’t all they need — an overhaul of the world’s financial architecture would be nice, too.
2. …But won’t be changing its tune on fossil fuels any time soon. Given Canada’s official COP27 delegation included fossil fuel lobbyists, it’s no surprise that when the call came to scale down the use of coal, oil and gas, Canada did not answer.
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says a pledge like that is difficult to make because the federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction over oil and gas extraction — only pollution — meaning Canada couldn’t enforce plans to draw down all fossil fuels without risking legal action from the provinces. Critics say that argument is a cop-out.
“If you don't have a plan to phase out oil and gas production, you don't have a climate plan,” Andréanne Brazeau, policy analyst with Équiterre, told CNO.
Guilbeault’s colleagues in government aren’t exactly shying away from oil and gas, either. Last month, the prime minister told a Bloomberg reporter that Canada could hit its climate goals and grow the industry driving climate pollution, too. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told MPs this week that fossil fuels technically don’t cause climate change — producing and burning them does.
Quebec, for its part, has made it clear fossil fuels are not part of the province’s future, as have several countries and one U.S. state. Recently appointed “super minister” Pierre Fitzgibbon — who handles Quebec’s energy and economy files — also put to rest rumours about a fossil fuel facility at the Port of Saguenay, pronouncing the project “dead” at COP27.
Jurisdiction issues aside, whether or not Canada gets on board with a fossil fuel phase-down, that train has left the station. More and more countries are warming to the idea, and this year’s lively debate over the proposal marks a big step forward from even a year ago, when fossil fuels were mentioned in a COP decision for the first time. Between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, falling fossil fuel demand in the forecast and extreme weather that’s ravaged communities from Canada to Pakistan to Ethiopia, a growing number of countries are beginning to imagine a future without oil, coal and gas. Those who don’t get on board could be left in the dust.
3. Greenwashing is out. While Canada is torn between ambition and delay, Catherine McKenna spelled out exactly where she stands on misleading climate plans and promises. The former environment minister unveiled a new set of recommendations to combat greenwashing at COP27, taking up the United Nations’ push to crack down on companies, cities, banks and organizations that are big on talk and small on action. The guidelines, put together by a UN expert group McKenna leads, aren’t legally binding but detail what a plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions should look like.
The main takeaways? Getting to net zero means actually cutting back on planet-warming pollution, not just trying to balance the carbon accounting books, and you can’t support fossil fuels at the same time.
“There's a price of admission to say net-zero,” she told Canada’s National Observer. “You're either part of the solution or part of the problem.”
More CNO reads
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Danielle Smith is in deep trouble — and she just keeps digging. Despite her party trailing the Alberta NDP in public opinion polls, Smith seems determined to keep pushing unpopular ideas and polarizing policies, writes columnist Max Fawcett.
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Activists launched a global push to get Equinor out of oil and gas. The Norwegian energy giant is behind plans for Canada’s first deepwater drilling site, Bay du Nord. But Cloe Logan reports, climate groups from Norway, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina and Canada think they can convince the company to quit fossil fuels.
The world’s biggest military spenders are also the world’s biggest polluters. A new report ranks Canada 14th in military spending but seventh in planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, Natasha Bulowski reports.
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