Last week saw the publication of another major report on the climate crisis. This one was from the worldwide authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; it’s the Summary for Policy Makers for their latest synthesis report. Synthesis report means that they are basically putting together the findings of the three big reports that came out last year, on the science, the impacts and the possible ways forward to mitigate dangerous climate change. And Summary of Policy Makers means that this phenomenally large body of work is summarised in a mere 36 pages in the hope that elected officials and their advisers will actually read it. Because this is a summary, there is nothing new. And because all the governments of the world get to have some say in editing it before publication, its findings have been watered down somewhat. But it still shows a stark reality which can only be described as an existential emergency, and calls for emissions reduction paths appropriate to an emergency. That implies emissions reduction targets which our federal government’s approach still falls seriously short of, and which our provincial government totally ignores in its policymaking.
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in launching the report:
The 1.5° limit is achievable, but it will take a quantum leap in climate action. This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country, in every sector and on every timeframe. In short our world needs climate action on all fronts – everything, everywhere, all at once.
And, while the report emphasises the zero- and low-emissions options that can help us resolve the crisis before it’s too late, we should also listen to the implications for the fossil fuel industry. Hence Mr. Guterres called for:
ceasing all licensing or funding of new oil and gas, consistent with the findings of the International Energy Agency. Stopping any expansion of existing oil and gas reserves…. Establishing a phase-down of existing oil and gas production consistent with a 2050 net zero target.
When Mr. Guterres mentioned the International Energy Agency, he was referring to the statement by its executive director, oil economist Fatih Birol, two years ago, that:
If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year.
Mr. Guterres went on to point out that:
the longer we wait the harder it will become;
and called for us all to:
move into warp-speed climate action now.
Meanwhile, the leaders of Pacific Island states are doing just that. Meeting in Vanuatu in March 2023, surrounded by the debris that is the aftermath of two devastating climate change amplified cyclones, they agreed on a series of actions. These states were already calling for an advisory opinion from the International Criminal Court on the legality of wealthy industrialised countries’ greenhouse gas emissions in the light of their impact on low income countries. To this, they added several further commitments. They are committed to get their own house in order – totally phase out fossil fuel combustion from their economies. They are calling for the next big international climate conference, COP28, to be held in Dubai in December 2023, to specifically commit to the phasing out of all coal, oil and gas as fuels. And they will also be bringing to the United Nations a resolution in support of a fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty – to stop new development, phase out existing production on a scientifically realistic timetable, and make concrete community-centred plans for a just transition in all economies currently dependent on fossil fuel production.
The leaders of these vulnerable low-income countries are taking serious action, not just for themselves but in solidarity with all of us, because our entire planet, all its ecosystems, and all its people are threatened. Despite the limitations on their capacity, even in the midst of recovery from a disaster, they are acting. What are we doing?
One thing we can do as citizens is to expose the hypocrisy of the big banks which, while talking sustainability and net zero, are at the same time helping fuel the crisis by funding fossil fuel expansion – pipelines to the BC coast, liquid natural gas terminals, fracking projects, a new oilfield off Newfoundland, and so on – all on the backs of human rights and Indigenous sovereignty. The Royal Bank of Canada will be holding their AGM in Saskatoon on April 5th. There will be an eight person Wet’suwet’en delegation in Saskatoon for the AGM, speaking to the impacts of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline and Indigenous sovereignty. CJS is supporting events and actions planned primarily by Indigenous people from the communities most affected by the bank’s financing policies.
For information on the April 4th public panel discussion: “Who is financing the destruction of our land?” see https://www.indigenousclimateaction.com/events/rbc-agm23-panel
For information on the April 5th Rally and Rounddance outside the RBC AGM, see https://rbcrevealed.com/agm-2023/
Another thing we can do is call explicitly for electrical generation in Saskatchewan to be completely decarbonized by 2035 at the latest. This means calling on the government of Saskatchewan and SaskPower through their public engagement meetings, and in every other way that we can, to abandon their current plans to shift primarily to greenhouse gas emitting fossil gas and expensive and inflexible nuclear power.
For more information please see Shifting Power: Zero-Emissions Electricity Across Canada by 2035 available online here: https://davidsuzuki.org/science-learning-centre-article/Shifting-Power-Zero-Emissions-Electricity-Across-Canada-by-2035/
Also see Achieving a Net-Zero Canadian Electricity Grid by 2035 available online: https://www.pembina.org/reports/achieving-a-net-zero-canadian-power-grid-by-2035.pdf