As the federal government consults about its upcoming legislation capping carbon emissions in the oil and gas sector, no doubt hearing often from industry lobbyists, Canadians are growing more cynical about the government’s ability to bring this powerful industry into line.
Qualitative research by EcoAnalytics last summer suggests that few Canadians expect this profit-driven industry will make the changes necessary without strong government regulations forcing it to align with national targets and global commitments.
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This sentiment is echoed in EcoA’s latest Climate of Change Survey (November-December, 2022), which shows a significant increase in demand for government climate action. No less than 70% of respondents support that call, up from 60% last year.
Data from our 2022 climate survey also reveals that Canadians across the country are experiencing more extreme weather. They are attributing this weather to climate change and many are already experiencing negative impacts on their property, finances, and mental health. (More on this here.)
• Almost 60% of respondents believe that “companies that produce, transport, and burn fossil fuels” are primarily responsible for climate change.
• 29% feel governments are mostly to blame for being slow to enact strong climate change laws.
EcoA’s 2022 climate survey, which had a national sample of 1,860, was conducted by Dr. Erick Lachapelle, associate professor of political science at the Université de Montréal.
To further understand how Canadians see the relationship between the oil and gas industry and government, we dug into perceptions and opinions about emissions regulations in our Qualitative Policy and Efficacy Research, conducted by Environics last summer. The discussions revealed that many folks don’t believe the industry will ever change its profit-driven ways without tough government regulations that the industry cannot manoeuvre out of. Respondents felt it was the responsibility of the government to enact and enforce laws that force the industry do its part in reducing emissions along with other Canadian sectors. EcoA’s Qualitative Policy and Efficacy Research included online discussion groups with 54 participants who were neither strong supporters of climate action nor deniers of climate change, but members of the so-called Moveable Middle.
This supports other recent polling that shows 69% of Canadians supporting a cap that would set a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that oil and gas companies can emit in their operations, and that 55% want a rigorous cap, not a flexible one.
But while the demand for more government action is clear, trust in the Trudeau government’s ability to tackle climate change remains low. Our National Omnibus Survey, conducted by Environics in April, 2022, showed that only two in five Canadians trust the government to do the right thing when it comes to climate action. And 51% believe the federal government is too influenced by industry. That means Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment and Climate Minister Steven Guilbeault will need some big wins on climate to build credibility support as climate leaders with Canadians. The upcoming emissions cap legislation is a great opportunity to show Canadians and the world that the Trudeau government can be the adult in the room, regulating an unaccountable industry that continues to mislead the public about its commitment to reducing emissions.
As we highlighted in our last contribution to The Energy Mix (January 23), Canadians, including Albertans, are ready for such adult leadership.
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