A win for climate
The government of Quebec announced it would not approve GNL Québec, a $14-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. The reasons for the rejection may be as important as the decision itself.
One of the oil and gas industry’s favourite arguments is that natural gas exports could help lower carbon pollution abroad. But the Quebec government concluded the opposite — that LNG exports “could have the long-term consequence of slowing down the energy transition of the client countries of the project.”
Instead of being a “bridge” for countries to wean themselves off coal, natural gas could just as easily be a blockade stopping the uptake of clean energy.
The experts at Quebec’s Ministry of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change decided the government “could not count on a net reduction in GHG emissions on a global scale.”
The government of Quebec also pointed to the “expertise” of the International Energy Agency. Earlier this year, the IEA released a bombshell report concluding that we need to stop developing new fossil fuel projects immediately.
Just this week, the IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, was in the news calling on the U.K. to ditch proposals for new oil and gas drilling before hosting the UN climate talks in Glasgow.
It’s a remarkable interview from the head of the organization founded to secure global oil flows, which has spent decades buttressing the fossil fuel industry.
“We are extremely clear,” says Fatih Birol: no new oil or gas exploration or new coal mining “if we want to… provide a livable planet.”
The decision in Quebec wasn’t purely a result of expertise coming to bear on a major climate decision. The governing party — the Coalition Avenir Québec — had been a big supporter of the proposed project, but pressure campaigns changed the politics.
The first protest was organized by members of the Innu nation. The Innu leaders of Mashteuiatsh, Pessamit and Essipit later refused consent for the pipeline that would feed GNL Québec.
Thousands of citizens, including doctors, scientists and economists, organized against the project. In celebrating the decision, Équiterre recognized over 120,000 Quebecers who signed petitions, as well as 54 student associations, 250 doctors and health professionals, and 60 civil society organizations that took a stand.
The campaigns first convinced all the opposition parties to oppose the project and, ultimately, the government itself.
If you want to read more about LNG, you might be interested in a couple of articles prophesying its economic demise, published on Friday:
- Here comes the death of LNG by Max Fawcett
- Is the LNG industry at a dead end in Canada? by John Woodside
Climate back on top
Climate change and the environment top Canadians’ list of concerns as we head towards a probable election. Pollsters at Angus Reid got that result from people in every region of the country except Alberta and Saskatchewan. The pollsters also found that “all non-Conservative voters currently rank climate change among their top three national concerns.”
Chart from Angus Reid. July 16, 2021
This time last year, Indigenous “issues” ranked at less than 10 per cent. That number has risen to 23 per cent.
Feds kick off just transition consultation
During the last federal election, the Liberals promised a Just Transition Act for oil and gas workers. Now, with the next election looming, the government is asking for input.
Natasha Bulowski reports that “starting in August and running through September, virtual consultations with workers, communities, provinces and territories, Indigenous people, and businesses will take place by invitation. Canadians not involved in those talks can email feedback to Natural Resources Canada.”
Jim Stanford recently showed a well-designed government program could phase out all fossil fuel jobs over the next 20 years without any involuntary layoffs.
Summer of fire and flood
The Los Angeles Times calls it the “Summer of Disaster: Extreme weather wreaks havoc worldwide as climate change bears down.”
Fires are raging across the northern hemisphere. On Tuesday, British Columbia declared a state of emergency and the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to B.C. and Manitoba. In Siberia, over 1.5 million hectares have burned already this summer.
Intense fires, like the Bootleg fire in Oregon, are creating their own weather: fire tornadoes and pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which NASA calls “fire breathing dragons” — fire clouds that reach airliner heights and generate lightning, igniting even more fire. At one point this summer, there were 710,007 lightning events over B.C. and Northern Alberta in just 15 hours.
Around the world — including Europe, Nigeria, China and Turkey — deadly floods devastated entire regions in the last few days. Hundreds were trapped, and at least a dozen people drowned in the Zhengzhou subway after an entire year’s worth of rain fell in one day.
Flooding in Western Europe killed at least 160 people in Germany and another 31 in Belgium. “It is terrifying,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “There are barely words in the German language to describe the devastation that’s been wrought here.” And if there aren’t words in German…
Heading for a record
You’ll remember the government of Quebec invoked the International Energy Agency in its rejection of GNL Québec. This week, the agency was out with a sobering report showing governments are not doing enough to build back better — as a result, climate pollution is expected to rebound from the pandemic and reach record levels over the next couple of years.
Globally, only two per cent of recovery spending has gone to clean investments. “This is by far not enough,” says the IEA’s Fatih Birol. “What we will see is that 2023 will reach an all-time record high (in greenhouse gas emissions). This is very worrying.”
Fossil fuel subsidies
The G20 countries have only reduced fossil fuel subsidies by 10 per cent since the Paris Accord, and subsidies went up in eight countries, including Canada. That’s the finding of a new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“In 2016, the Trudeau government committed to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 — in line with the G20 pledge first made in 2009. Yet Canada raised this support by 40% from 2015–19 — the second-largest increase among the G20.”
Capturing carbon. Or not...
Over 500 environmental groups from across Canada and the U.S. have called for governments to stop funding carbon capture projects.
The groups argue investments in carbon capture subsidize oil and gas production and get in the way of transitioning to clean energy.
Meanwhile, one of the world’s flagship carbon capture projects is in trouble. The Gorgon project in Australia was intended to capture and bury 80 per cent of the carbon pollution from an LNG plant. It’s only managed to sequester 30 per cent. The government of Western Australia had required carbon capture as a condition for approving the Gorgon LNG project.
Bloomberg reports on the oil and gas industry’s eye-popping projections for carbon capture and storage projects: “About 10,000 large CCS facilities need to be built over the next five decades, according to Royal Dutch Shell Plc. There were fewer than 50 in operation last year.”
Canada’s energy regulator should plan for success
The Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) is the federal agency that does detailed modelling of the country’s energy future. Investors, companies and governments all rely on it. But all of the CER’s scenarios assume climate failure.
A group of climate scientists, energy experts and academics is pushing the federal government to get the regulator to articulate what it would look like if Canada actually lived up to its climate promises. The CER “has only modelled a suite of scenarios that imply the Paris Agreement’s goals will not be met, where the world does too little to reduce its production and consumption of oil, gas, and coal, and where Canada’s climate policies lack ambition and fail to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050,” says the group.
New Brunswick says it can’t meet coal phaseout deadline
New Brunswick’s energy minister says the province needs to keep burning coal until 2040 because it needs more time to develop alternatives.
Earlier this year, New Brunswick gave $20 million and the feds provided $50 million to companies in St. John to develop small nuclear reactors, known as SMRs (small modular reactors).
Louise Comeau with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick says we’re already “out of time” and the “carbon budget is basic math.” The council is campaigning for regionally integrated clean energy and against any federal exemption allowing New Brunswick to keep burning coal past the 2030 deadline.
Space cowboys versus climate coverage
How much attention is the media giving to billionaire space junkets?
“An analysis by Media Matters found that the NBC, ABC, and CBS morning shows devoted 212 minutes to Bezos’ little jaunt. In comparison, those same shows spent 267 minutes covering climate all of last year.”
Santa Barbara bans natural gas hookups
The City of Santa Barbara became the latest California city to ban natural gas in new home construction. City councillors voted unanimously. “The gas company didn’t even bother to show up and neither did Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions, a notorious front group created by SoCal Gas to lobby against such proposed bans,” the Santa Barbara Independent reports.
Switch It Up BC is keeping track and says this is the 47th California community to phase out fossil fuel hookups from new construction.
Five years ago, only two countries had plans to phase out gas and diesel cars (Norway and the Netherlands). The number is now 34 if you include last week’s announcement by the European Union. A growing number of sub-national governments like California have joined the list as well.
“Because of how long it takes to turn over a vehicle fleet, a country can’t achieve a Net Zero emissions by 2050 without phasing out new combustion-vehicle sales by 2035 at the absolute latest,” says Bloomberg’s Colin McKerracher.
Cowessess First Nation goes solar
Last week, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan held an opening ceremony and officially switched on its new solar project. Community members trained as certified solar technicians and installed over 800 solar panels.
Before the opening ceremony, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds performed a flyover to recognize the recent discovery of 751 graves near the former Marieval Residential School.
Chief Delorme told the CBC: "This is Cowessess's contribution to our children and our children yet unborn, that we will preserve and protect Mother Earth.”
"It's going to have ripple effects into our education," Delorme said. "Now that our kids get to see this, we're now looking to prepare them for science and engineering.”
Ashleigh Dawn is a Cowessess community member who got certified as a solar installer. It’s now her full-time job. "We're here to make sure we keep the Earth clean,” Dawn said. “Renewable energy is really the most obvious path for us to continue on."
That’s all for this week. I won’t be sending out the Zero Carbon newsletter during August, so this one’s your last for a while. Please feel free to email me at [email protected] with your ideas and suggestions for future newsletters.
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