Following the Paris agreement in 2015, Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to reduce the nation’s annual greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
As of 2019, according to the federal government, emissions had been been reduced one per cent below 2005. Even that reduction is suspect because the release of methane from production and movement of oil and gas is inadequately measured. Of course, Canada takes no responsibility for emissions from Canadian oil and gas exported and burned elsewhere in the world.
Oil and gas extraction in Canada has been subsidized with tens of billions of dollars since Trudeau’s 2015 promise, but not because the industry is an extraordinary producer of Canadian jobs. Statistics Canada reported that during 2020, direct jobs from O&G extraction totalled 0.35% of the country’s industrial aggregate. In British Columbia, the number is 0.24%.
Why are Canadian politicians so determined to increase fossil fuel production when science says unequivocally that it must be reduced?
Largely because governments and people operating within are comfortable maintaining the status quo and pretending everything is all right. As Voltaire wrote:
One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything’s fine today, that is our illusion.
Greenpeace offered eight reasons to begin a managed decline of the industry. The organization asserts fossil fuel companies are:
- Wrecking our climate,
- Spending to lock-in climate pollution,
- Causing deadly air pollution,
- Causing water pollution,
- Perpetuating environmental injustice,
- Treating workers unfairly,
- Misleading the public about the climate threat,
- Attacking solutions, while raking in tax breaks.
An industry doing this harm is undeserving of massive financial support from taxpayers. But those who profit from fossil fuel production have outsized political influence. That is particularly true in western Canada where the corporatocracy is powerful.
In British Columbia, public revenue from natural gas production has declined hugely in the second decade of the 21st century, but production has been accelerating:
BC’s NDP government levies severe taxes on fossil fuels to discourage consumption by citizens. That is an appropriate policy choice but the same government provides gas companies multi-billion dollar public subsidies to encourage increased production.
Leading politicians pretend coal, oil and gas are free of environmental harm if the fuels are burned in places other than British Columbia.