Shortly after the 2019 Alberta election, the provincial government announced it was creating the “Canadian Energy Centre,” a $30-million “war room” designed to fight alleged “misinformation” and “lies” spread by opponents about its oil and gas industry. In the time since, environmental organizations working to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy — including the David Suzuki Foundation — have received attention from this “war room.”
On July 4, 2019, the Alberta government commissioned a two-year, $3.5-million taxpayer-funded “Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns.”
After three requests for extensions, one budget increase, one rejected report submission and widespread criticism for commissioning research that denies the scientific reality of climate change, the inquiry is now “complete.” On July 30, the inquiry’s commissioner submitted his report to the Alberta Ministry of Energy. On October 21, the Alberta government released its findings.
Our Foundation was one of the 40 or so organizations targeted by the inquiry and “invited to participate.”
From the outset, the name of the inquiry itself (into “Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns”) suggested bias. We didn’t want to legitimize such a process by formally responding to it. But after reviewing the inquiry’s 176-page draft report, we wanted to set the record straight.
We did so for various reasons.
First, labelling as “anti-Alberta” environmental organizations and people working for a safer world and stable climate was so likely to further instil hate and direct threats that we wanted to help stand up to this aggression.
Second, the report is filled with unsubstantiated claims and errors about many organizations, including ours, so we wanted to put the facts on the record.
We sent the inquiry’s commissioner this letter that you can read in full.
While this government-funded “war room” and “public inquiry” may be political, they have the potential to be truly harmful. Immediately following a summer when much of the country experienced the most intense heat waves, wildfires and other climate impacts in Canada’s history — resulting in hundreds of Canadians perishing from extreme heat — the fact that the Alberta government would abuse its power to drive public polarization and downplay the climate crisis is outrageous.
We are proud of our mission. And we love Alberta. But unlike this inquiry, we believe in science and that science-based solutions are necessary to solve crises, whether it’s the climate crisis or COVID-19. Denying the science — and the severe threat that heat-trapping carbon pollution poses to the safety of our communities and families — to protect entrenched industrial interests is irresponsible and dangerous.
For more than three decades, the David Suzuki Foundation has supported Alberta’s energy sector by advocating for a responsible and sustainable approach to energy resource development. For decades, we have called for policies to reduce emissions from the oil and gas sector and diversify the provincial economy by shifting to clean, renewable energy sources. We have consistently supported the rapid development of Alberta’s clean energy sector and workforce, recognizing that the province is well-positioned to lead in sustainable energy. As we’re sure this government is well aware, Alberta has among the highest renewable energy resource potential in Canada.
Continued proliferation of fossil fuels brings these elements — and the well-being of all life — into jeopardy. As our letter to the commissioner says, “This isn’t ideology. It isn’t political. This is science.”
Have we recognized the severity of the climate crisis since our founding in 1990 and worked tirelessly to encourage a transition to clean energy? Absolutely. Does this make us “anti-Alberta”? Of course not. Everyone relies on clean air, clean water and clean soil to live, no matter which province or country they live in. Continued proliferation of fossil fuels brings these elements — and the well-being of all life — into jeopardy. As our letter to the commissioner says, “This isn’t ideology. It isn’t political. This is science.”
What we need now, in the midst of an ever-worsening climate emergency, is unity — the ability to come together and reach solutions that work for everyone. We need to get better at working across political, ideological and geographical lines. What this inquiry and its report promise to deliver is the exact opposite: further polarization and discord, with more and more Canadians thinking other Canadians are the “enemy,” when really, if we have an enemy, it’s greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions that are driven largely by the proliferation of fossil fuels.
As the world’s most comprehensive report on climate change to date (the August 9 UN IPCC report) further proves, the climate crisis is here. Human activity (primarily, burning fossil fuels) is causing it. It presents a “code red” to humanity. And the window to address it is closing fast. The good news is that solutions exist, but we have just a decade to do the lion’s share of the work.
While some government and industry leaders may try to distract us from the real work ahead, the David Suzuki Foundation and other environmental NGOs remain undeterred and even more focused on our mission. We hope you will join us in calling on all governments everywhere to urgently fast-track a just and equitable transition to a clean energy economy this decade, and to foster honest, transparent, unifying dialogue on how to get there.