There’s an alternative pathway to jobs and reliable energy without continued reliance on Canada's single-largest and fastest-growing source of emissions: fossil fuels

There’s an alternative pathway to jobs and reliable energy without continued reliance on Canada's single-largest and fastest-growing source of emissions: fossil fuels. (Photo: Anton Klyuchnikov via Pexels)

Canada has a choice to make.

This week’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reaffirms that the climate crisis isn’t a problem of the future. It’s harming people, ecosystems, community safety, food security and the economy now.

Compiled by scientific experts from almost every country, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability provides overwhelming evidence that communities are ill-prepared for the climate disruption unfolding today, let alone the accelerating impacts that lie ahead. Adaptation plans are inadequately financed, leaving the most-vulnerable communities to grapple with the greatest risks.

Our own eyes and ears show us the truth about the climate emergency. In Canada, record-breaking forest fires, droughts and floods expose our vulnerability, lack of preparedness and the real impacts of fossil fuel dependence.

Polls consistently show that a vast majority of Canadians are concerned about the climate crisis and want action. Yet an old argument persists, a false binary that we must choose between reducing emissions for a viable future or maintaining jobs in an “essential” industry.

Polls consistently show that a vast majority of Canadians are concerned about the climate crisis and want action.

The federal government is caught between these two conflicting options. It has recognized the need for bold climate action and is developing key climate policies, laws and regulations. Yet, paradoxically, it continues to support, approve, subsidize, finance and even own fossil fuel projects. Canada is one of the world’s top public fossil fuel financers.

This sunset industry pits jobs against the environment, but jobs are being lost due to market shifts and automation, and the disparity of pay between executives and workers is extreme. In reality, the vast concentration of wealth among the oil elite has come at the expense of their own workers, Indigenous rights, communities and — according to the IPCC report — all life on Earth.

It’s a good thing we have better options for employment and the environment.

There’s an alternative pathway to jobs and reliable energy without continued reliance on Canada’s single-largest and fastest-growing source of emissions: fossil fuels. We can invest in a Canada that is forward-thinking, where decisions benefit workers and communities.

We can invest in a Canada that is forward-thinking, where decisions benefit workers and communities.

Upcoming modelling research from the David Suzuki Foundation shows Canada can reliably and affordably achieve a 100 per cent clean electricity grid by 2035, adding tens of thousands of jobs every year in the process. Wind and solar are now the cheapest forms of electricity in history. Alberta and Saskatchewan have some of the best wind and solar resources in Canada, and could maintain their status as leaders in energy production and jobs as they transition to renewables. Every penny of our energy subsidies, tax breaks and financing should power that renewable revolution.

The IPCC report and the overall assessment of which it is a part unequivocally show that we are not moving quickly enough to mitigate, adapt to and avoid the worst of climate devastation. And it lands while the federal government is making key decisions that could start to free us from our climate paradox.

The next month will be revealing.

Will the federal government fulfil its promise to end fossil fuel subsidies and financing by the end of the year when it releases its budget this spring?

The IPCC report and the overall assessment of which it is a part unequivocally show that we are not moving quickly enough to mitigate, adapt to and avoid the worst of climate devastation.

Will government reject false information from the oil and gas lobby and put a cap on emissions from Canada’s top polluter? Will it develop a timeline for fully phasing out fossil fuels in Canada?

Will the soon-to-be-released 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan set Canada up to meet its promised goal of a 40 to 45 per cent decrease from 2005 levels by 2030? We need clear details on how we’ll meet this target, and we must go even further to achieve our global fair share.

Will the government introduce a Just Transition Act to ensure workers, Indigenous Peoples and front-line and vulnerable communities benefit from the jobs and increased quality of life that will ensue from the necessary shift to clean energy?

Will the government introduce a Just Transition Act to ensure workers, Indigenous Peoples and front-line and vulnerable communities benefit from the jobs and increased quality of life that will ensue from the necessary shift to clean energy?

The IPCC clearly tells us we must resolve Canada’s climate contradictions. Our foundation’s modelling shows we can chart a new path, basing decisions on science and the climate impacts we see in our country today. We can take bold climate action and invest in a clean energy future. We can choose better health, long-term jobs and more resilient, safe and equitable communities.

Federal milestones are coming up this spring: the budget, the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, the oil and gas emissions cap and, we hope, a Just Transition Act. Let’s ensure Canada makes the brave and right choices.

This op-ed was originally published in Canada’s National Observer