Eco-conscious people had something to celebrate during this year’s Canada Day festivities. After a decade of failed climate leadership the country is undergoing a radical transformation, thanks to new federal government and a changing global environment. Canada has much to be thankful for, not the least of which is the demise of oil obsessed Stephen Harper’s climate and environment destroying federal government. After being elected in November, 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party’s December Throne Speech made it clear that they intend to deliver on their raft of climate and environmental promises. It became clear that their promises were more than just words when the Liberals released their budget.
In a radical departure from the previous government’s fossil fuel focused climate obstructionism, the new federal government recently announced an ambitious continent wide climate and environmental strategy with the US and Mexico.
Paris climate agreement
The outcome of the COP21 climate meeting marked an unprecedented turning point. Going into the global gathering the new federal government and the provinces were unified on climate action. The Canadian new federal government played a leading role at these talks. The Paris Climate deal is groundbreaking and sets the stage for a radical shift away from fossil fossil fuels.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau address at the UN COP21 climate summit in Paris.
“This agreement marks a pivotal moment in history,” said the David Suzuki Foundation’s director of science and policy, Ian Bruce.
Canada is not only working for early ratification of the agreement, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he and his government will continue to show leadership including lobbying governments to approve the Paris agreement and bring it into force as soon as possible.
Under Harper’s leadership Canada continued to make GHG reduction pledges that it was incapable
of meeting. Although we have a new government, the previous government’s pandering to fossil fuel interests and overt climate inaction have made GHG reductions far more difficult.
In this video Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, talks about reducing GHG what it will take to see real action on climate change after years of inaction.
In February, a Globe and Mail opinion piece reported that Environment and Climate Change Canada’s GHG projections indicate the nation will hit 768 megatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020. This vastly exceeds Canada’s target of 622 megatonnes and the situation will keep getting worse. By 2030, GHG emissions will increase to 815 megatonnes, well above the target of 524. Half of these emissions are attributed to the tar sands.
The article singles out what it calls the “previous government’s laggardly attitude. Under Stephen Harper, Canada became a pariah in the international community – a supposedly enlightened country that refused to take steps to fight climate change.” To achieve the GHG reductions promised by Trudeau’s Liberals, “Canada will have to amputate, not nip and tuck.”
In 2015 Desmog listed four primary ways for Canada to significantly reduce its GHG emissions:
1. Cut tar sands emissions
2. Clean up transport
3. Make energy renewable
4. Pricing carbon
Canada’s biggest hurdle in combating climate change is its GHG intensive fossil fuel industry. According to the Pembina Institute, Canada’s tar sands are the fastest growing source of emissions. However, the rapid decline in oil prices has helped to force many Canadians to reappraise our reliance on dirty energy as market forces slowly kill the fossil fuel industry. For the tar sands to make economic sense we need to see oil prices of more than $60 a barrel, however, Goldman Sachs forecasts that the price of oil will stay at or below $50 per barrel for at least the next 15 years. Investors in Canada and elsewhere are coming to the realization that oil is a bad investment.
In this video shot in 2013 Justin Trudeau responds to questions about his views on fossil fuels in Canada
As reported in a CBC article, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers investment in the Canadian oil and gas sector can expect the biggest drop in fossil fuel investment ever. Analysts are expecting to see a 62 percent drop in capital investment by the end of 2016. This breaks down to a $50 billion drop from $81 billion in 2014 to $31 billion in 2016. The total number of wells drilled in Western Canada this year is forecast to decline to 3,500, from 10,400 in 2014.
The Financial Post reports that tens of thousands of jobs have been cut and many more are expected. By the end of last year it was estimated that 40,000 oil and gas jobs have been lost in the past 18 months. Calgary’s unemployment rate rose to 6.9 per cent in November from 4.6 per cent a year earlier,
These impacts can be attributable to an economy that is overly dependent on fossil fuels. In a successful bid to become a dirty energy superpower, Harper’s Conservative’s failed to diversify the Canadian economy. The costs of which are now becoming increasingly obvious.
The failed climate leadership of Canada’s Conservative party under Harper has laid the foundation for the unfolding economic disaster.
As reported by the Globe and Mail, during their reign Canada’s economic complexity index (ECI), a measure of economic diversity, shrank to 0.70 from 1.1. The value of the Canadian dollar has seen its longest and deepest downturn due to Canada’s position as a petro-state.
As bluntly stated in another Financial Post article:
“Where the price of oil goes, so goes Canada’s dollar. No other major currency is as closely tied to the value of its key commodity export as the loonie is to crude right now.”
Since 2012 the Canadian dollar has lost almost a quarter of its value against the American dollar. Last year was the third consecutive year of decline against the US currency. Focusing on oil at the expense of everything else is the Conservative’s sad legacy in this country.
“We were becoming that one-trick pony,” said Darcy Browne, head of institutional foreign exchange sales at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, who’s been trading currencies in Toronto for 26 years. “What else has Canada done? We’re not diversified enough.”
After ten years of Conservative rule we are ten years behind other developed nations. This oil myopia has created a technological gap. According to David Dodge, governor of the Bank of Canada from 2001 to 2008 and a former deputy minister of finance under both Conservative and Liberal governments, Canada is suffering from technological neglect and an overemphasis on dirty energy. “So we’re going to have to go back, having lost a decade on the technological side,” he said.
Nowhere is the unmitigated disgrace of Conservative rule felt more acutely than in Alberta, the very province Harper was purportedly serving. A Macleans article states that, “the broad optimism of early 2015 has gradually given way to dread…it’s forecast to get worse..the Alberta dream is in decline.”
Alberta may be the core of Canada’s dirty energy production, but the hard times in the province are reverberating across the country. Driven by uncertainty, the worst impacts of Canada’s dependence on fossil fuels is yet to come.
According to Evan Siddall, the chief executive of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., if oil prices average around $35 a barrel for the next five years, we could see national unemployment rate of 12.2 percent and a 26 percent decline in national house prices. Todd Hirsch, the ATB economist says that the situation in Alberta is likely get worse before they get better.