There are two sides to Canada’s post pandemic recovery. On the bright side there’s massive public support for a recovery that puts people before profits and tackles both the climate crisis and the coronavirus crisis simultaneously. Hundreds of organizations all across the land have endorsed these Just Recovery Principles. But there is also a dark side.
1. The Dark Side
“The last time we had a financial meltdown (the 2008-09 recession) it was followed by a record surge in fossil fuel burning,” wrote Barry Saxifrage and Chris Hatch recently in the National Observer. “At the time there was hope that governments would use their huge, future-shaping stimulus to transition to a climate-safe economy.”
Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, the burning of fossils soared in 2010 and continued its upward trajectory every single year since. That is, until the pandemic as the Global Fossil Fuel Burning chart illustrates. The blue dotted line on the chart shows the projection for an 8% decline in CO² for 2020.
According to a recent International Energy Agency (IEA ) report, a similar trend will follow the pandemic unless governments around the world speed up their transition to net-zero with a laser-like focus on clean technology and decarbonising their economy.
We’re now eight months into a deep pandemic and ongoing efforts to keep economies afloat. So how are we doing? Are we setting the stage for the same emissions trajectory that followed the 2008 recession or are we taking advantage of what the IEA calls a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pour investment into clean energy and create millions of new jobs.”
Energy Policy Tracker
A newly-formed Energy Policy Tracker has gathered data on the G20 countries’ new support for fossils since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. If you’re thinking we’re heading for a green recovery, think again.
Canada is leading the G20 in its pandemic commitments to fossils—almost 10 times the G20 average per capita—with a total of $US12 billion. That works out to $US323 per Canadian for fossils compared to $US63 for clean energy.
(These public money commitments are additional to many other government policies that had existed to support different energy types before the COVID19 pandemic. — Energy Policy Tracker)
Reducing Our Burn Rate
Canada needs to do a lot more than refocus its pandemic recovery investments to clean energy. “When it comes to the amount of fossil fuels burned every year, Canada is second only to Saudi Arabia in the G20 — in terms of total fossil burn per capita. Both countries are in the global top one per cent, burning more fossil fuels per person than 99 per cent of humanity,” report Saxifrage and Hatch.
Canada’s climate gap is on an upward spiral that leaves little hope of reaching Paris Agreement goals let alone getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. We are losing the race against climate change.
2. The Bright Side
Political insiders say that former Finance Minister Morneau blocked investments that would not only tackle the pandemic but build resilience against the climate crisis.” A deepening rift between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his finance minister about coronavirus spending is also fuelled by disagreements over the scope and scale of proposed green initiatives,” reported CBC news prior to Morneau’s firing.
Morneau was a strong cheerleader for the fossil fuel industry in Trudeau’s cabinet and also the architect of the TransMountain pipeline purchase. Not only did Morneau commit an appalling $13 billion to TMX before the pandemic, he was hiding the pipeline’s growing cost for months.
Morneau’s departure combined with Trudeau’s recent appointment of Mark Carney as special advisor for his government’s pandemic recovery plan is fueling speculation that “Trudeau will pursue ‘green’ recovery plan,” reports The Guardian.
Carney is currently serving as the United Nations’ special envoy on climate action and climate finance. He has often likened the climate crisis to a financial crisis and has called on the financial sector—particularly large global banks—to aggressively tackle climate change.
These recent events open the door for a “fundamental retooling of the Canadian economy” tweeted The Energy Mix.
— The Energy Mix (@TheEnergyMix) August 18, 2020
A Green Recovery and a Climate-Safe Economy
“Justin Trudeau is weighing sweeping changes to the country’s social welfare system and a series of economic measures that will align Canada with ambitious climate goals,” Reuters recently reported.
“This is our moment to change the future for the better,” Prime Minister Trudeau said when he announced the prorogation of Parliament. “We can’t afford to miss it because this window of opportunity will not be open for long.”
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