In 2021, the Canadian government committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, from 2005 levels, by 40 percent by 2030. On November 7, the Auditor General reported that Ottawa is on track to miss those emissions targets.
In fact, Canada has missed every emissions reduction target it has ever set. This despite Justin Trudeau claiming that one of the government’s top priorities is fighting climate change.
One of the biggest problems is that the government hasn’t even tabled draft regulations for reducing oil and gas emissions, even though this was promised two years ago.
In the meantime, the oil and gas industry – the country’s largest and fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution – is doubling down on fossil fuels and raking in record profits. In 2022, the industry made an estimated $120 billion in total profits, the highest ever recorded. This year, oilpatch profits are expected to reach nearly $80 billion, the second highest on record.
And don’t fall for that hogwash that the oil corporations are using those profits to pay for a green transition. No, they’re all using their climate-busting windfall to pay down debt and shovel money into their investors’ bank accounts.
For example, in 2022 Suncor cut its debt by more than $2.5 billion and gave another $8 billion to its investors through dividends and share buybacks.
With an economic spine built out of fossil fuels, it’s no wonder that Trudeau and Co. can’t find the political backbone to change direction. Instead, Ottawa seems to be backpedalling on climate justice about as quickly as the oil industry is running to the bank. Between buying a pipeline, sending armed police to raid Indigenous land defenders whose territory was “inconveniently” in the pipeline’s path and then, more recently, exempting oil for home heating from the (tremendously flawed) carbon tax, the government seems determined to push the boundaries of hypocrisy and incompetence when it comes to climate action.
It’s not as if any other party in Parliament or provincial government is any better. Led by the bizarre Danielle Smith, conservatives are completely wedded to an anti-scientific denial of climate change and the urgent need for decarbonization. The BC NDP government continues to support new fossil fuel infrastructure, even while claiming it can still meet its emissions targets – on the same day that Premier David Eby announced a plan to reduce climate pollution from LNG facilities, he simultaneously approved the Cedar LNG project.
But maybe all of this isn’t really so hypocritical – after all, every government in Canada and every party in Parliament or the provincial legislatures is committed to capitalism. Sure, they have different approaches and policies, but at the end of the day they all abide by the parameters of a system based on private profit.
Surely, if Ottawa’s repeated failure to meet even the most modest emissions targets teach us anything, it is that it is high time for a different political direction.
For example, we could try confronting corporations in the oil and gas industry and other high-impact sectors, rather than kowtowing to them. How about forgetting all the market-friendly carbon pricing and carbon trading schemes, and just passing a law that limits emissions? Political parties are practically tripping over one another to criminalize the chant, “From the river to the sea…” but they sit on their hands while huge companies pollute the country and planet and profit off it.
What about expanding public transit and making it free, and building an extensive network of electric inter-urban high-speed rail, to sharply reduce the number of vehicles on the road? Surely, this kind of project could be funded through the billions in public dollars that Ottawa and the provinces are presently ponying up to entice profiteering corporations to build EV plants.
And maybe we could rethink the role and purpose of the government’s biggest carbon emitter of them all, the military. National Defence is the worst polluter of all government departments, it is excluded from most calculations of Canada’s carbon footprint, and it continues to balloon and suck up more and more billions of dollars each year. A significant cut to military spending – on the order of 75 percent, let’s say – would go a long, long way toward trimming emissions and freeing up resources that are urgently needed for climate programs as well as people’s needs.
We can force the government to do this and more. But it will take mass action by millions of people who are fed up with greenwashing capitalism, and who want a better life on a livable planet.
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