World leaders committed to climate actions during the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pitched a global carbon tax, a solution focusing on adding costs to emissions rather than limiting production.
Canada hosted a panel discussion at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, where Trudeau co-chaired a roundtable discussion on the need to put a price on 60 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to prevent the global temperature from rising more than 1.5 C.
“Putting a price on pollution is the most efficient and powerful way to keep 1.5 alive,” he said during the panel discussion.
A price on pollution is far away from the most effective solution however. In fact, Canadians have questioned the efficiency of the carbon tax. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has said the carbon tax isn’t actually working. Kris Sims, the British Columbia director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, has called the carbon tax a “cash grab.”
A global price on greenhouse gas will continue to let Canadian and global oil and gas producers release emissions. These companies will pay the price and in exchange will raise the prices of their services to recover their losses. No real climate action will come from making polluters pay a price if oil and gas companies don’t limit their production.
When the CBC asked federal environment minister Steven Guilbeault why the government isn’t capping production, Guilbeault said, “the federal government is prevented from doing so by law because natural resources fall under provincial jurisdiction.”
“Constitutionally, we can’t do that,” he told CBC.
One thing they can do is accelerate the ban of exports of thermal coal from and through Canada. At COP26, Trudeau said Canada will stop exporting thermal coal by 2030, but this can be done much sooner. The longer Trudeau’s government waits, the longer the country will contribute to distributing higher levels of greenhouse gases, which also slows other countries from transitioning away from coal.
“Canada’s coal exports produce roughly 40 million tonnes a year of carbon each year, equivalent to 8 million passenger vehicles,” reads a news release from Environmental Defense, a Canadian environmental advocacy organization.
The World Health Organization estimates that thermal coal from all sources is linked to 800,000 deaths globally each year. Canada’s less harmful replacement to coal has been liquified natural gas (LNG), which is planned to be exported to the Asia-Pacific natural gas market.
Oil and gas industries have argued that LNG is better to export than coal because it’s less dirty, and switching away from coal will reduce emissions by 50 per cent while also creating jobs across Canada. Unfortunately, LNG burning still releases methane which heats up the atmosphere about 28 times more than carbon emissions do.
Methane is also dangerous because it’s effective at trapping heat, and adding a tiny bit of methane to the atmosphere can affect how quickly we experience global warming.
LNG collection technologies like hydraulic fracturing or fracking also play a crucial role in climate change. The fracking process consists of drilling into the earth then releasing a water mixture of chemicals and sand to unlock the natural gas. Apart from disturbing the ground and releasing gas emissions, the chemicals that are contained in fracking wastewater can also be unsafe for human health.
A few of the effects that can arrive from fracking include water supply depletion, water contamination through fluid leaks, fractured rock formations, wastewater mismanagement, and earthquakes.
Between 2013 and 2019, in parts of the Montney, an unincorporated locality known to have fracking facilities, 15 miles north of Fort St. John, had a total of 439 earthquakes up to 4.6 magnitudes associated with fracking.
The 2021 report titled 1.5-Degree Lifestyles: Towards A Fair Consumption Space for All by the Hot or Cool Institute, compared 10 countries and their current annual average lifestyle carbon footprints per person as of 2019, Canada ranked in the top 10.
Canada produced 14.2 tonnes of CO2 during 2019, compared to Finland at 9.7 and the United Kingdom at 8.5.
Canada and all the countries participating in COP26 need to stop pretending that putting a price on carbon will solve everything, and instead look at real ways to start lowering the emissions from oil and gas production and consumption to make way for sustainable initiatives that will move our world forward economically, sustainably, and ethically.