A senior government official from the United Kingdom, one of Canada’s staunchest allies on international climate action, is calling for a grown-up conversation on the need to keep fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
“Put bluntly, if we are to meet the emissions targets that are implied by the Paris Agreement, then we know already that we have too many fossil fuel reserves out there,” said Chris Stark, CEO of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), in an interview last week with National Observer.
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“I don’t speak with any authority about the Canadian position—but what we really need are big market mechanisms that encourage people to do the right things, for markets to do the right things, and for the big corporate interests then to follow that,” he added. “That will be a mixture of things, including potentially saying some tough things to the oil and gas sector globally.”
While a full phaseout will take decades, that recognition “has to be accompanied by a strategy to take us off them in the future,” he added. “Politicians have to be grown up about it, too,” and “being grown up is about taking big decisions at the right moment, being supported of course by the economics and the evidence.”
Stark was in Ottawa last week, meeting with Members of Parliament, government officials, and non-government organizations to discuss the pivotal role of the CCC’s 30-member secretariat in driving UK climate policy. While he was in town, he stressed that governments won’t meet their targets under the Paris Agreement if they develop all their available oil, natural gas, and coal deposits—and that climate risk must be built into the price of those products.
“The idea of disclosing those risks more explicitly to the market is going to be a really important driver of getting the investment patterns right in the future,” he said. In that light, “the interests of government should be in reducing the costs of the good things, it seems to me, and then the market will deliver.”
Stark’s visit came just weeks before Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna is expected to announce the winner of a multi-million-dollar competition to set up a non-profit climate watchdog with a role similar to the CCC’s, Observer notes.
“While the previous government cancelled the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a non-partisan institute that provided expert advice to their government on climate action, our government will continue to ensure that Canadians have access to the best evidence-based advice and expertise about climate change,” said McKenna’s press secretary, Sabrina Kim.