Trudeau moves on pledge to cap oil and gas emissions as COP26 talks begin in Scotland
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the memory of Lytton, B.C., on Monday as he called for global action in the fight against climate change and formally committed to a cap on emissions produced by Canada's oil and gas sector.
The prime minister was speaking at the 26th meeting of the Council of Parties to the UN climate convention, known as COP26, where more than 120 world leaders have gathered for two days to assess global efforts to address what many see as an existential problem.
It was in that context that Trudeau referenced the record-setting temperatures that set the stage for the devastating wildfire that swept through the village of Lytton in June, destroying much of the community.
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"What happened in Lytton can and has and will happen anywhere," Trudeau told the assembled leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "How many more signs do we need? This is our time to step up -- and step up together."
Trudeau went on to formally launch his government's latest effort to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by committing to a cap on emissions from the country's oil and gas sector.
Such a cap had been promised in the Liberals' recent election platform, with plans to force emissions down until they hit net zero in 2050. A lack of regulations for the sector has long been a sore spot between environmental groups and Ottawa.
"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," Trudeau told the leaders.
"That's no small task for a major oil and gas producing country. It's a big step that's absolutely necessary."
The announcement was met with mixed reaction. Dale Marshall, national climate program manager with Environmental Defence, said Trudeau's pledge fell short.
"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," Marshall said in a statement, adding Canada has the weakest emissions-reduction targets of G7 nations.
"We cannot go from climate laggard to even the middle of the pack without curtailing oil and gas production, starting now."
Newly named Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault along with Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson sent a letter to the government's net-zero advisory body Monday asking for its help to develop policy to support the new plan.
"We seek your advice on key guiding principles to inform the development of quantitative five-year targets," the letter reads.
"Your advice will also help inform the emissions reduction plan for Canada's 2030 target that we are committed to tabling in Parliament in the coming months."
Trudeau arrived at COP from the G20 leaders' summit in Rome, where leaders agreed that global warming had to be limited to 1.5 C by the end of this century. However, they failed to agree on specific actions to make that happen.
While Trudeau promised to cap oil and gas sector emissions, Canada will not increase its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions further than what was announced earlier this year.
In July, Canada formally submitted to the UN its new target, which aims to have 40 to 45 per cent fewer emissions than in 2005 by 2030. The previous target was a 30 per cent reduction in emissions from 2005 by 2030.
The prime minister said Sunday that while there is always a lot of attention on the setting of targets, not enough attention goes to meeting them. He said Canada is now focused on implementing the policies needed to meet its existing targets.
To that end, he used his address on Monday to list the actions his government has taken to make good on its promises, including putting a price on carbon.
He also noted that Canada has committed $5.3 billion to help low and middle-income nations with their emissions-reduction and mitigation efforts, with up to $1 billion of that funding dedicated to helping countries transition away from coal.
"Canada understands our climate future will be won in developing countries," said Mafalda Duarte, CEO of the Climate Investment Funds, which works with development banks, governments and communities in developing countries to finance climate solutions.
"Today's announcement from Prime Minister Trudeau is a strong signal of Canada's leadership in climate finance and represents a significant expansion of the country's 12-year partnership with the Climate Investment Funds."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2021.