The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, has brought important
conversations to the forefront.
There’s a lot of speculation about whether the targets set will be met and whether world leaders are serious
about tackling climate change. Looking past the skepticism and rhetoric, progress is being made and part of that is the tone and urgency with which we discuss climate issues.
Let’s take a look at some of the key conversations facing the Canadian business community coming out of COP26.
Fossil Fuel Industry
Canada’s continued investment in and use of fossil fuels is having an impact on climate change. As a country with cold temperatures and vast distances between communities, we use a lot of fossil fuels to stay comfortable and connect socially and economically. We’re also the fourth largest oil producer and exporter in the world.
The Government of Canada recently pledged to:
• Commit to ending public financing of fossil fuel projects
• Implement a cap on oil and gas sector emissions
• Reduce methane emissions
The big conversation here is that our best bet at fighting climate change is to leave our oil in the ground and
significantly scale back resource extraction, but that comes at a huge cost. It’s an initiative that is only effective if people also reduce our use of fossil fuels, otherwise we just offset our production with imports.
To what degree are we willing scale back the sector that has pushed a lot of economic growth and prosperity in country?
The death of gas-powered cars
Jumping on the idea that reducing fossil fuel
production is most effective if people reduce their use of fossil fuels, Canada upped its commitment on phasing out gas-powered vehicles. Our government committed to working toward
making up 30% of new truck and bus sales by 2030 and 100% by 2040. They have also committed to having the sales of all new cars and vans be zero emissions by 2040, or no later than 2035 in leading markets.
Right now, fully electric
passenger vehicles (EVs) account for a little over 3% of total sales in Canada. While the market share of EVs is increasing, it’s still a relatively small niche at the moment.
The provincial government recently affirmed its commitments to building electric cars and battery systems in Ontario, but reiterated that they also have no intention of bringing back rebates for electric car purchases.
There are a lot of points to debate regarding the high purchase price compared to lower cost of ownership of EVs, but it’s going to take focused investments to pull us away from our gas-powered vehicles. There’s an economic win in it if we make the transition right.
Canada was lauded for championing the merits of carbon taxes at COP26, calling for 60 per cent of all global emissions to be covered by a carbon tax by 2030.
The big issue when it comes to solutions like carbon taxes — and really, most of the other environmental
commitments our governments make — is competitiveness. Are we resolute enough to see these initiatives through, even if our trading partners don’t? It’s fair to say our largest trading partner, the United States, doesn’t share the same values as our nation on a number of things, including our plans to fight climate change. The same goes for other trading partners like China.
It’s unlikely that we can meet our climate goals without driving up domestic costs for production, transportation, and innovation. How do we deal with importing goods from countries that don’t
share our values and are able to produce goods at a lower price but a higher
environmental cost? If our producers are paying carbon taxes but their competitors aren’t, how do we remain competitive?
If nothing else, COP26 highlighted the giant game of chicken our world leaders are playing. There is a lot of promising and posturing, but no one wants to be the first to lead in implementing and accomplishing the tasks set out. The goal is to get
everyone making the same goals and moving forward
together, but that’s a stretch at best. So, as Canadians, where does that leave us? What are our priorities and what sacrifices are we okay with? Because everything, whether progress or the
status quo, comes at a cost.