Unlike 2020 Democrats, No Canadian Politician is Spotlighting Big Oil’s Climate Influence
Although three of the major parties running in Canada’s federal election have put forward serious climate plans, “none of them explicitly names the oil and gas industry as the main barrier to avoiding warming having double the effect on Canada compared to the rest of the world,” reporter Geoff Dembicki writes in an analysis for The Tyee.
It’s a point of contrast that sets Canadian politicians apart from their counterparts in the United States, where the Democratic Party primary has featured a much harder-edged response to fossil politics, Dembicki says.
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“That needs to be part of a climate plan, and it isn’t in anybody’s plan right now, and even saying that in Canada is impolite,” said Greenpeace Canada Senior Energy Strategist Keith Stewart. “Upstream oil and gas is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country and the fastest-rising source, so until we’re willing to tackle the oil industry, then we are not acting like this is an emergency or even a serious problem.”
Dembicki notes that three of the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination in the U.S.—Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris—have laid out specific plans to hold fossils responsible for their role in driving the climate crisis. “Even former vice president Joe Biden, not exactly the image of an anti-corporate radical, vows to ‘take action against fossil fuel companies’,” he writes.
“This is what we did to the tobacco companies,” Harris declared. “We sued them, we took them to court.” Sanders is promising to go after “fossil fuel billionaires whose greed lies at the very heart of the climate crisis,” while Warren tagged fossils for “making the big bucks off polluting our Earth”.
Against that standard, “Canada is not even close to having that conversation politically,” though a look at the NDP, Green, and Liberal platforms suggests it “may be edging there”.
Dembicki’s post includes an initial summary of the three climate platforms that The Tyee will be augmenting later in the campaign. But “so far,” he writes, “none of the Canadian plans, not even the Greens’, addresses head-on the vast political weight and influence of the fossil fuel industry. Yet, without a rapid phaseout of oil, gas, and coal in Canada, the country is virtually guaranteed to miss the 2030 climate targets it agreed to in Paris.”
“Look, Canada is in a tough spot, we have been a petro-state for the past 15 years and the [Stephen] Harper administration did nothing to try to change that,” said University of California, Santa Barbara political scientist Leah Stokes. “In fairness to Justin Trudeau, he inherited a difficult situation.” Dembicki notes that NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was tagged as a “radical” for belatedly concluding that “the future of our country cannot involve fracking…It cannot involve the burning of any fossil fuel,” when Sanders “gets mainstream media coverage referring to the fossil fuel business model as a ‘criminal activity that cannot be allowed to continue.’”
“No matter how you feel about the confrontational rhetoric, however, it’s long overdue for Canadian politicians to reduce the carbon—and political—footprint of oil and gas companies,” Dembicki says, citing Stewart. “He throws out a few suggestions: no federal permits or funding for infrastructure projects that delay our progress to a 1.5°C world, a ban on fossil fuel advertising or sponsorship of public events, a guaranteed high-paying green job for anyone displaced by Canada’s transition to a zero-carbon economy.”
“That’s a hard change,” Stewart said, “I acknowledge that. It’s going to be a hard political fight.”
But he contrasted that with expansion projections from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers based on an International Energy Agency scenario that adds up to 3.5°C average global warming. With Canada warming at twice the average rate, “that’s 7.0°C,” he told Dembicki. “That’s catastrophic levels of change in a short period of time.”