Canada is among a group of top fossil fuel-producing countries on pace to extract more oil and gas than would be consistent with agreed-upon international targets designed to limit global warming, according to a new analysis.
The report, released last week by the United Nations in collaboration with a team of international scientists, found that countries still plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be required to limit warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.
The findings are at odds with government commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement, as well as with projections by the International Energy Agency that global demand for coal, oil and gas will peak within this decade.
The report’s authors said more money needs to be allocated toward the transition to clean energy and the top producers need to work together to limit production.
“We find that many governments are promoting fossil gas as an essential ‘transition’ fuel but with no apparent plans to transition away from it later,”Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author of the report and a scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute, said in a statement.
“Science says we must start reducing global coal, oil and gas production and use now — along with scaling up clean energy, reducing methane emissions from all sources and other climate actions — to keep the 1.5 C goal alive.”
Michael Lazarus, a senior scientist at the Stockholm institute and another one of the report’s authors, said wealthier countries “with the greatest capacities to transition away from fossil fuel production bear the greatest responsibility to do so while providing finance and support to help other countries do the same.”
In a briefing held before the report’s release, the researchers argued that the continued production of fossil fuels would undermine the transition to cleaner forms of energy.
“Given that governments, production plans and targets helped to influence, legitimize and justify continued fossil fuel dependence, there is a real risk that such plans are undermining the energy transition by locking in long-lived fossil fuel infrastructure,” Achakulwisut said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who has become increasingly outspoken in his calls for action on climate change, said the report is “a startling indictment of runaway climate carelessness.”
The report, citing figures from the Canada Energy Regulator, shows Canada — the fourth-largest oil producer in the world — is set to increase production through 2030 if there is no further action to reduce emissions, and by 25 per cent above 2022 levels by 2035.
The report notes that the federal and provincial governments have recently approved new oil and gas developments.
By contrast, other fossil fuel-producing countries, such as Norway and the United Kingdom, are projected to scale down production. The United States, the largest producer of fossil fuels, is on track to increase production, as is Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The 126-page document was prepared by the United Nations Environment Program, along with more than 80 researchers at universities, think-tanks and non-profit organisations around the world.
“Canada is the only G7 country that has not achieved any emissions reductions since 1990,” he said. “But what this also shows is that it is doable. Some of these other places have quite different approaches to reducing emissions.”
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said ‘new things have been presented’ to the environment commissioner to demonstrate Canada is making progress on meeting its emission reduction targets — and criticized Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s approach to climate change.
Responding to Tuesday’s audit, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told reporters that the federal government needs to do more.
He said the commissioner’s audit used last year’s emissions numbers and that by the end of 2023, the federal government will have some “good news” on emission reductions.
‘A big elephant in the room’
Caroline Brouillette, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, said in an interview with CBC News that the latest findings are further evidence of the need for the federal government to cut all subsidies to fossil fuel companies, both domestically and abroad, and impose a cap on oil and gas emissions.
“In the Canadian climate policy conversation, there has been a big elephant in the room, which is this continued expansion of oil and gas production,” she said.
Environmental advocates, including Brouillette, said Canada will need to be a leader in working to reach an agreement on phasing out fossil fuels at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP28, which takes place in Dubai, U.A.E., from November 30 to December 12.
“It requires global co-ordination, co-operation and agreement,” she said.— CBC