Climate Summit Questions Trudeau on Fossil Fuel Expansion

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a speaker as he participates in the United Nations Secretary General's Climate Ambition Summit at the United Nations

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was questioned about Canada’s huge oil and gas expansion at the Climate Ambition Summit in New York City. This comes at a time when climate science determines the immediate elimination of fossil fuels.

Trudeau was invited to speak, but before he did, United Nations Under-Secretary-General Melissa Fleming pointed out that Canada topped the list of the biggest expanders of fossil fuels last year and questioned what Canada is doing to comply with the Acceleration Agenda, a set of measures rich countries should take that the UN says could prevent the Paris Agreement from failing like so many climate accords before it.

Rich countries are urged to become net-zero by 2040, stop subsidies for fossil fuels, phase out coal power by 2030, set ambitious renewable energy targets, implement fair, balanced, and just energy transitions, and use new principles of climate justice to guide decision-making as part of the Acceleration Agenda.

Trudeau stated that he agreed with António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his call for immediate action not just “because the science demands it, but because of the economic opportunity.”

“Climate policy is economic policy,” he added. “As we move forward, we will continue to increase our ambition at every level.”

Additionally, Trudeau stated that by the end of 2023, the “framework” for his government’s proposed cap on emissions from the oil and gas sector will be complete. In addition, he declared that draft regulations would soon be released to limit methane pollution, claiming that their implementation would reduce emissions by more than 75% from 2012 levels by 2030, surpassing Ottawa’s goal. He also announced that Canada would be contributing $700 million to the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust, which can be used by countries with low incomes.

Environmentalists and Indigenous rights activists reacted negatively to Trudeau’s speech.

“When at home in so-called Canada, Trudeau provides ample lip service to nurturing relationships with Indigenous people, yet when given the opportunity to speak in international spaces, he reduces climate action to economic opportunities — and fails to acknowledge our rights at all,” stated Indigenous Climate Action executive director Eriel Tchekwie Deranger.

According to Oil Change International’s global policy manager Romain Ioualalen, wealthy nations like Canada were given a chance to prove their dedication to the Paris Agreement but “instead we saw cowardice and a staggering failure of climate leadership.”

“The U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., and Norway, responsible for a majority of planned oil and gas extraction, either arrived empty-handed or failed to attend altogether,” according to his statement. “This is a slap in the face of the more than 600,000 people who marched on all [seven] continents last weekend.”

According to a new report from Oil Change International, Canada is on set to overtake the United States as the world’s second-largest producer of fossil fuels by the year 2050. The greenhouse gas emissions from just Canada’s projected fossil fuel growth are similar to those from running 117 coal plants for decades, making up 10% of the world’s expansion plans.

In light of Trudeau’s recent statement that he intends to implement a cap on oil and gas sector emissions and new measures to address methane pollution, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith recently threatened to disrupt an agreement between her province and the federal government.

Guterres is determined for climate action after a summer of record-breaking heat waves, and he is using this week’s meetings to increase pressure on rich nations like Canada ahead of heated climate discussions at the United Nations’ annual climate negotiations later this year at COP28.

“Humanity has opened the gates to hell,” Guterres said on Wednesday He warned that if we don’t quickly phase out fossil fuels, the earth will warm by 2.8 C, causing a “dangerous and unstable” environment.

“If we are to meet the 1.5-degree limit and protect ourselves from climate extremes, climate champions, particularly in the developing world, need solidarity,” Guterres said. “We must make up time lost to foot-dragging, arm-twisting, and the naked greed of entrenched interests raking in billions from fossil fuels.”

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Written by Olivia Woods

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