To limit global warming, rich countries like Canada must end oil and gas production by 2034: report

For the world to have a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, Canada and other wealthy fossil fuel-producing nations must halt all production by 2034, according to a new report.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions needed to ensure a livable future is “far more difficult” than any world leader is willing to admit, said Kevin Anderson, one of the report’s authors and professor of science. energy and climate change at the University of Manchester. Emissions from fossil fuels are a major driver of human-induced climate change.

Released on March 21, the report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development proposes different phase-out dates for oil and gas-producing countries by grouping them according to their wealth, development and economic dependence on fossil fuels. .

He found that there is no room for any country in the world to increase the production of fossil fuels, and that rich countries like Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom must be the first to end production to give smaller and poorer nations a fair transition and provide them with financial aid. The richest countries, which produce more than a third of the world’s oil and gas, must cut their production by 74% by 2030, while the poorest, which supply only a ninth of the world’s demand, must reduce their production by 14%.

If rich countries end fossil fuel production by 2034, middle-income countries by 2043, and poorest countries by 2050, the world will have a 50% chance of keeping global warming in check. below 1.5°C, according to the report.

“Would we be willing to put our children on a plane with a 50/50 chance of landing safely? Anderson asked. “I think we probably wouldn’t…Why is it better to take that risk with their future?”

A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that even if countries act urgently and limit global warming to 1.5°C – the threshold scientists say is needed to sustain livable planet – the world will always be faced with “inevitable” and constant phenomena. worsening impacts of climate change over the next two decades.

Canada got a taste of these impacts with the deadly heat wave, floods and wildfires that swept across British Columbia last year. Anderson said people in poor countries are already suffering the more severe effects of climate change and that warming beyond 1.5C is “almost a death sentence”.

“Many people are suffering and dying from climate change away from places that cause problems like the EU, UK, Canada, US,” he said.

The report found that rich countries must phase out fossil fuel production long before poorer producing countries for there to be any semblance of a just transition.

The authors determined the economic capacity of all fossil fuel-producing countries by calculating each nation’s GDP without oil and gas revenues.

Despite being small producers of fossil fuels, countries like South Sudan, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon have little economic revenue outside of oil and gas production, so the rapid removal of that revenue could threaten their political stability and collapse their economies, Anderson said.

“For some parts of the world, oil and gas make up around 60% of their economy. If you remove that…they have almost nothing,” he said.

Rich countries like Canada that are big producers, on the other hand, have highly diversified economies and generally remain wealthy even after oil and gas revenues are removed, Anderson said.

For example, the report says Canada’s GDP would still be the 13th highest in the world, even without oil and gas revenues.

According to the report, oil and gas revenues represent 10% of Canada’s GDP, which “is not an insignificant amount, but an amount that is relatively easy for us to replace with other sources,” said Catherine Abreu, founder of Destination Zero and member of Canada’s Net-Zero advisory body.

If we “keep pretending” that Canada’s oil and gas industry is essential to the country’s economic well-being and that it will be “too difficult” to make the transition, “how can we expect anyone ‘someone else it’s actually a lot harder to do it for?’ Abreu asked.

“Canada’s plans for fossil fuel expansion (are) the second largest in the world…So Canada is really one of the worst culprits in coming up with plans for this industry that are really out of step with our commitments in the Paris Agreement.”

The Canada Energy Regulator says under the country’s current policies, Canadian oil production is expected to continue rising and peak in 2040 before declining slightly, while gas production will rise steadily to 40% above current levels by 2050. It does not include any scenarios. compatible with achieving net zero emissions by 2050 or maintaining 1.5C.

The phase-out dates in the report were calculated by taking stock of the global carbon budget, countries’ total fossil fuel production, and their economic capacity to phase out coal, oil and gas. Although this method has left some leeway to give poorer countries more time for transition, it is “still not fair to poorer countries” and must be combined with “large financial transfers from rich countries, Anderson said.

“Our ways (are) still unfair to the poorest parts of the world if you look at total emissions per person over the time period we have,” he said. The fact that women, children and people of color are the most affected by climate change points to a broader issue of racism embedded in climate action, or lack thereof, Anderson added, and the institutional racism that exists in the Global North also manifests itself on a global scale.

“We’ve been very unfair to people who have suffered these racial injustices for centuries and we’re just adding another racial injustice,” he said.

The federal government recently announced that $315 million of Canada’s $5.3 billion five-year climate finance commitment will be made available to organizations in Canada and in the Global South to partner to climate adaptation projects, but rich countries, including Canada, are still well behind. of what is needed.

At the end of the month, the federal government will unveil its emissions reduction plan, which Abreu says is the first step in recognizing that Canada must address emissions from the oil and gas sector. This report makes it clear that we need to go beyond this first step and account for emissions from the oil and gas we export, not just production, Abreu said.

The report does not include negative emissions technologies such as carbon capture and storage and nature-based solutions because “these are highly uncertain and speculative, (and) we have no large-scale examples” , said Anderson.

“It’s dangerous to assume it will work when it’s so uncertain,” he said, noting that the report’s authors were still researching negative emissions technologies, but left them out to avoid to increase the carbon budget without guaranteeing that it was safe to do so.

“We still ignore the part of the science that actually tells us that budgets can be much smaller, so your policies have to be much tighter,” he said.

World leaders are betting whether they continue to use more fossil fuels and do not act urgently to phase them out, he added.

“We’re playing Russian roulette with our own children’s future,” Anderson said. “That’s what we do, spin the bedroom around with a ball in it and hold it in front of our kids’ heads at breakfast and say, ‘Will we be lucky?'”

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Teresa H. Sadler