Canada will impose a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and deliver a “major commitment” to encourage other natural resource-dependent countries to quickly drive down their own climate pollution, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told assembled world leaders when he took the stage Monday at this year’s United Nations climate change summit, COP 26, in Glasgow.
“What happened in Lytton can and has and will happen anywhere. How many more signs do we need?” Trudeau asked. “Canada is warming, on average, twice as quickly as the rest of the world. And in our North, it’s three times quicker. The science is clear: We must do more faster. So that’s the pledge and call I bring to this historic meeting.”
The promise to cap fossil fuel emissions was nothing new for Canadians who first heard it as a campaign promise during the summer election, and the government had already signalled there would be no new details on its climate plans during the conference. But Trudeau’s statement to the COP World Leaders’ Summit brought the commitment to a global audience at a time when delegates are looking for signs of momentum as they enter two crucial weeks of high-stakes negotiations.
“We’ll cap oil and gas sector emissions today and ensure they decrease tomorrow at a pace and scale needed to reach net-zero by 2050,” the PM said. “That’s no small task for a major oil and gas producing country. It’s a big step that’s absolutely necessary.”
On Monday, newly-installed environment minister Steven Guilbeault and natural resources minister Jonathan Wilkinson asked the federal Net-Zero Advisory Board (NZAB) for its help designing the new emissions cap, CBC says.
“Specifically, we seek your advice on key guiding principles to inform the development of quantitative five-year targets,” they wrote. “It is essential that as we move to a net-zero emissions economy, Canadian workers and communities continue to prosper. Our goal is a future in which the energy workers and communities that helped build this country have even greater opportunities than they do today, through a responsible transition to the low-carbon economy.”
In Glasgow, Guilbeault said there were no details yet on what will happen to companies that exceed the gap. “We will need to be developing this, and that’s exactly what we will be doing in the coming months,” he told media.
But he said the idea was landing well with delegates from other countries, including U.S. climate envoy John Kerry. “I think that what we’re bringing to the table is clearly getting very positive attention,” he said.
NZAB member and Destination Zero Executive Director Catherine Abreu said she’d expected more from the Canadian delegation to the COP.
“We didn’t get any commitment to Canada thinking through an economic transition and diversification strategy that means we’re going to stop exporting a huge amount of emissions to the rest of the world,” she told CBC. “I was really hoping we would hear more from Canada when it comes to the level of ambition that’s needed in our energy transition.”
“Today Prime Minister Justin Trudeau identified the biggest climate challenge for Canada but failed to come up with the right solution,” Dale Marshall, national climate program manager at Environmental Defence Canada, said in a release from Glasgow. “Focusing on emissions from oil and gas production but not production itself will allow oil and gas companies to keep putting forward false solutions, such as carbon capture and storage, fossil-based hydrogen, and far-off net-zero plans, all while pumping out more and more atmosphere-destroying fossil fuels.”