Canada will not agree to add language calling for the phasing out of all fossil fuels – including oil and gas – to the final deal at this year’s UN climate talks in Egypt , Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Thursday.
The agreement from the United Nations conference in Scotland last year called on countries to act faster to get rid of coal-fired power stations that are not reduced with technology to capture emissions. It was the first time a COP pact included a reference to reducing any type of fossil fuel use.
India spent the last two weeks of the COP27 negotiations pushing to add oil and gas to this paragraph in this year’s final pact.
Get daily news from Canadian National Observer
The European Union said it supports the idea as long as it does not weaken the coal language. US climate envoy John Kerry said the US was fine as long as it applied only to oil and gas “relentlessly”.
But there was no sign of such language in the draft text of the COP27 pact released on Thursday. The final draft was still being negotiated as the two-week climate talks neared their final day on Friday.
Canada backed the language of coal last year, but Guilbeault said he was not open to adding oil and gas to the pact this year.
In a one-on-one chat in Egypt on Thursday with Caroline Brouillette, national policy manager for Climate Action Network Canada, Guilbeault said Canada is focusing on regulations and policies that reduce gas emissions to greenhouse effect, such as regulations on how much methane oil and gas producers can emit.
It also focuses on reducing demand for fossil fuels with policies that promote energy conservation alternatives, such as electric vehicles, clean energy, and more efficient buildings.
He said if Canada supported adding language on phasing out oil and gas, it would trigger a backlash from the provinces, including in court.
“Everything we do is challenged in court,” he said. (Carbon) pricing has been challenged, our plastic pollution regulations have been challenged, our environmental impact assessment is challenged – either by the provinces, or by companies, or by both. And if we are not on very solid legal ground, we will lose in court and that does not help anyone.
Canada will not back down on the call at COP27 to “phase down” oil and gas production. CDNPoli COP27
Guilbeault said Canada hasn’t been challenged on plans to phase out coal, but is on nearly everything it does on the oil and gas side.
“We have to be very careful about what we do … that what we do will be held up in court,” he said. “Otherwise we’re wasting time, and precious time, fighting climate change.”
Julia Levin, national climate program manager for Environmental Defence, called it a disappointing excuse.
“I would say it’s clear that the Government of Canada is beholden to fossil fuel lobbyists and puts their interests ahead of the public welfare,” Levin said.
She added that Canada’s position is odd, given that the agreement would likely have included the same reduction provision as coal. Although Levin does not support carbon capture and storage as a serious solution to reducing emissions, she said that even that would be “a clear signal that the United States and others believe the age of oil and gas is over”.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, meanwhile, said getting low-emissions oil and natural gas to international markets is critical for its members.
“While global demand for natural gas and oil will remain strong for decades, Canada has a role to play in providing secure, low-emissions resources to the global energy mix,” said Lisa Baiton, President and CEO. direction of CAPP, in a written statement.
The hope in Egypt is that countries will reach a consensus on action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to make it still realistic to meet the goal of limiting global warming to no more than 1.5°C.
There is also pressure for an agreement on loss and damage so that the wealthier countries most responsible for climate change help the poorer countries that bear the brunt of extreme weather the most and bear the least responsibility.
A loss and damage fund is also not included in the draft text. Guilbealt told The Canadian Press in an interview earlier this week that Canada supports the idea, but this COP was only the first step towards such a policy.
“We won’t solve it here,” he said. “And in fact, the agenda item specifies that we are giving ourselves two years to have this conversation.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday that progress was not enough.
“The time for discussing loss and damage financing is over,” he said. “We need action.”
He did not directly ask for the inclusion of a fossil fuel phase-out in the final text, but alluded to it.
“The 1.5 goal isn’t just about keeping a goal alive — it’s about keeping people alive,” Guterres said. “I see the will to stick to the 1.5 target, but we need to ensure that this commitment is evident in the outcome of COP27. The expansion of fossil fuels is distracting humanity.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 17, 2022.