To Build A Better World After COVID-19 Launch A Fossil-Free Future

To Build A Better Canada After COVID-19 Launch A Fossil-free FutureThe choices we make now will define Canada’s — and the world’s — future. (Shutterstock)

Demand for fossil fuels collapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic as lockdown measures were introduced. In the second quarter of 2020, experts predict that global oil demand will be down 20 per cent from this time last year. Although demand is likely to recover somewhat in the next two years, some major oil company executives believe that it may never return to pre-2020 levels.

At the same time, the world remains “on fire” due to climate change, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. The year began with fires ravaging Australia, and in June, temperatures in the Arctic hit a record-breaking 38C.

The world is now at a critical juncture — a moment of uncertainty where decisions can cause dramatic shifts in the direction a society takes. The choices we make now will define Canada’s — and humanity’s — future.

As governments look for ways to help the Canadian economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, they must be guided by one incontestable principle: We cannot afford to invest in and expand the fossil fuel industry any further.

Why we need structural change

Daily global carbon dioxide emissions fell by 17 per cent in early April, when lockdowns were at their peak, compared to 2019. In the U.K., the decline hit 31 per cent, while in Canada it reached 20 per cent.

But emissions are now rebounding — much quicker than expected — as cars and trucks take to the roads again.

Emissions in 2020 are expected to be down by four per cent to (at most) seven per cent from 2019. But this falls short of the emissions cuts needed to achieve the Paris Agreement targets — 7.6 per cent a year, every year.

The lockdown has demonstrated that behavioural change alone is insufficient to decarbonize the economy; we also need structural change that gets at the root of emissions. This means addressing the contribution of the oil sector, particularly the oil sands.

While emissions from other sectors in Canada have levelled off or are declining, oil sands emissions increased by 456 per cent between 1990 and 2018. Emissions from conventional oil production have also increased, but only by 24 per cent.

Despite a valiant attempt by the Alberta NDP government in 2015, successive provincial governments have failed to reduce oil sands emissions. And since the COVID-19 crisis, “green initiatives,” such as Suncor’s plan to replace coke-fired boilers with natural gas units at its base operations, have been shelved to cut costs, undermining claims from the industry that it is part of the solution.

Industry crisis deepens

The oil and gas industry was in trouble before the pandemic hit, but it is now facing potential collapse.

climate adaptationA flare stack at the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton lights the sky in December 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

For a brief period in early April and again later that month, a barrel of Alberta oil was selling for less than a bottle of maple syrup. Although the price has since recovered somewhat, expectations for capital expenditures have changed dramatically.

Now, almost 40 per cent less financing is anticipated for 2020. A second wave of coronavirus infections and lockdowns could send oil markets into another tailspin.

While the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has indefinitely deferred its long-term production forecast, Alberta has cut production by about 25 per cent, or one million barrels per day. According to Alberta, mega pipelines are now “fairly empty,” and Enbridge plans to use part of its aging Line 3 for oil storage. BP has written off its oil sands investments entirely.

More subsidies won’t save jobs

It’s not surprising then that the Canadian oil industry has redoubled its demands for government support as well as the suspension of environmental regulations and monitoring requirements. In April, CAPP was the most active federal lobbying body, recording over 40 meetings with federal officials.

Any government response to this lobbying isn’t a question of weighing “jobs versus the environment”: the industry has been shedding jobs for years, while extracting more oil. From 2014 to 2019, in the midst of surging production, Canada’s oil and gas sector cut 53,000 jobs — about a quarter of the sector’s 225,000 jobs. Advancements in automation and other changes in the industry mean that those jobs are not coming back, even if the troubled Keystone XL pipeline is somehow built.

While oil workers have faced unemployment and anxiety about their futures, executives and shareholders have continued to reap huge benefits. The five largest oil sands producers doled out $12.6 billion in dividends to shareholders (the majority of which are not Canadian) from late 2014 to 2017.

As the fossil fuel sector scrambles to protect profits while shedding jobs, Canada’s clean tech sector is experiencing “explosive” growth, bringing impressive earnings and jobs. Clean energy jobs are anticipated to grow to over 550,000 in the next decade from 300,000 in 2019.

Stranded assets, stranded communities

In May, the Canadian oil and gas industry employed roughly 163,000 people, which was less than one per cent of all workers in the country. But those jobs are highly geographically concentrated. As oil assets increasingly become stranded assets, Canada’s oil workers and oil-dependent communities will likewise become stranded.

But that doesn’t have to be our future.

A slight majority of Albertans appear to understand this and support a transition away from oil and gas. The key conversations are about how and when this transition occurs.

The question of when has been answered for us. If, as a country, we can agree that bailouts are not justifiable on economic or environmental grounds, then the oil price crash dictates that the transition starts now. Recent polling indicates that the vast majority of Canadians want the federal government to invest in a “green recovery.”

climate adaptation

In terms of how the transition occurs, redirecting the billions of dollars in subsidies that the federal government currently provides the fossil fuel industry to renewable energy and energy efficiency projects is a good place to start. This could create far more jobs while also making a contribution to our emissions reductions targets.

Paths to a fossil-free Canada

Beyond this, there are plenty of good proposals to bring about deep emissions reductions through everything from increased investments in public transportation to regenerative agriculture.

climate adaptation Jobs created, directly and indirectly, per $10 million in government spending. (Data: H. Garrett-Peltier, Economic Modelling, pp. 439-47, 2017)

It is also clear that we should invest more in care work — so that we have more and better-paid nurses, and universal child care. Jobs in this sector are low-carbon and, as the pandemic has demonstrated so vividly, essential to the functioning of our society.

We can also think outside the box. The pandemic response has substantially increased awareness and acceptance of previously overlooked policy options such as universal basic income, job guarantees, and a shorter work week.

About the Authors

Kyla Tienhaara, Canada Research Chair in Economy and Environment, Queen's University, Ontario; Amy Janzwood, PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, and Angela Carter, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Waterloo

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Climate Adaptation Finance and Investment in California

by Jesse M. Keenan
0367026074This book serves as a guide for local governments and private enterprises as they navigate the unchartered waters of investing in climate change adaptation and resilience. This book serves not only as a resource guide for identifying potential funding sources but also as a roadmap for asset management and public finance processes. It highlights practical synergies between funding mechanisms, as well as the conflicts that may arise between varying interests and strategies. While the main focus of this work is on the State of California, this book offers broader insights for how states, local governments and private enterprises can take those critical first steps in investing in society’s collective adaptation to climate change. Available On Amazon

Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change Adaptation in Urban Areas: Linkages between Science, Policy and Practice

by Nadja Kabisch, Horst Korn, Jutta Stadler, Aletta Bonn
This open access book brings together research findings and experiences from science, policy and practice to highlight and debate the importance of nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation in urban areas. Emphasis is given to the potential of nature-based approaches to create multiple-benefits for society.

The expert contributions present recommendations for creating synergies between ongoing policy processes, scientific programmes and practical implementation of climate change and nature conservation measures in global urban areas. Available On Amazon

A Critical Approach to Climate Change Adaptation: Discourses, Policies and Practices

by Silja Klepp, Libertad Chavez-Rodriguez
9781138056299This edited volume brings together critical research on climate change adaptation discourses, policies, and practices from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Drawing on examples from countries including Colombia, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Russia, Tanzania, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands, the chapters describe how adaptation measures are interpreted, transformed, and implemented at grassroots level and how these measures are changing or interfering with power relations, legal pluralismm and local (ecological) knowledge. As a whole, the book challenges established perspectives of climate change adaptation by taking into account issues of cultural diversity, environmental justicem and human rights, as well as feminist or intersectional approaches. This innovative approach allows for analyses of the new configurations of knowledge and power that are evolving in the name of climate change adaptation. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you,, and at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.



follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration


The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…


green energy2 3
Four Green Hydrogen Opportunities for the Midwest
by Christian Tae
To avert a climate crisis, the Midwest, like the rest of the country, will need to fully decarbonize its economy by…
Major Barrier to Demand Response Needs to End
by John Moore, On Earth
If federal regulators do the right thing, electricity customers across the Midwest may soon be able to earn money while…
trees to plant for climate2
Plant These Trees To Improve City Life
by Mike Williams-Rice
A new study establishes live oaks and American sycamores as champions among 17 “super trees” that will help make cities…
north sea sea bed
Why We Must Understand Seabed Geology To Harness The Winds
by Natasha Barlow, Associate Professor of Quaternary Environmental Change, University of Leeds
For any country blessed with easy access to the shallow and windy North Sea, offshore wind will be key to meeting net…
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities | | | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.