Genuine climate leadership in Canada means separating the country’s economy from fossil fuel production quickly and for good, says Stand.Earth international program director Tzeporah Berman.
But the jumble of “half measures” the country’s leadership is currently pursuing “will fall short for as long as our political leaders continue to cling to the hope that we can meet our climate goals without winding down fossil fuel production,” she writes in a recent op-ed for The Globe and Mail.
While “Canada has made important strides, including by putting a price on carbon pollution nation-wide,” it has made little traction elsewhere, Berman states. Today, Canada has “the worst climate record in the G7.”
“Ever since we signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, our emissions have surged higher than those of any of our peers,” she writes.
And Ottawa’s climate inertia has been remarkable: resolute in the face of lethal heat domes, wildfires, drought, and flooding, Ottawa continues to “subsidize oil and gas drilling at higher levels than in any other G20 country.”
Such a state of affairs cannot continue, says Berman, citing research published last month in Nature finding that “a majority of fossil fuels need to stay in the ground if we want to avoid locking in the catastrophic impacts that would come with exceeding that number.”
And they do not have to stay this way, she points out. In fact, a June study from Sydney’s University of Technology found that “we have the renewable energy potential right now to transition us fully away from fossil fuels.”
But now the calls for climate action are growing ever louder and ever more diverse, with the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change both on the same page calling for an end to new fossil fuel projects. Berman flags the restoration and protection of Canada’s boreal forests—critical carbon sinks—as a particularly vital component of Canada’s climate efforts.
“We will also need new technologies,” she adds. “But the hard reality is that carbon capture and storage, a buzzy new innovation that promises to prevent greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere, is neither viable at scale nor cost competitive at the moment.”
In short, Berman concludes, “Canada claims to be a climate leader, but it’s time to get clear on what that means.” To show true leadership, the country must have both national and international commitments to end oil and gas while not leaving affected workers and communities behind.
“Wealthy, fossil fuel-producing countries, including Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Norway, are the ones that have largely driven historic emissions, and that now have the greatest capacity to make a transition away from oil, gas and coal,” she writes. “This means our fair share of the problem is bigger than those of most nations.”