A “glass half full” report from the International Energy Agency released Tuesday goes out of its way to be encouraging about the world’s attempts to keep the planet from burning.
But while it says it “remains possible” to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C – seen as a crucial limit to prevent floods, droughts and fires from getting worse – the report is making waves in the world. oil and gas sector by declaring that the only way to achieve that goal is to reduce fossil fuel production by 30 percent over the next seven years.
Aly Hyder Ali, director of the oil and gas program at the advocacy group Environmental Defense, welcomes what he calls the first report that says fossil fuel production peak and decline in this decade. But he says Canada and other rich countries aren’t doing enough.
“Current emissions reduction commitments by countries around the world are not ambitious enough to prevent further climate catastrophes,” he said.
Impediment to prosperity
The problem with fighting climate change is that it is expensive. While optimists insist that everything will work out in the end, there are signs that in the short term governments, pressured by the hugely profitable fossil fuel industry, may not be willing to pay that price.
The IEA report: an update of its Net zero roadmap – runs contrary to statements just a week ago in Calgary, where Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud insisted that increases in oil prices must be modest. And therefore, so should any production cuts.
The world must ensure that “energy remains affordable and does not act as an impediment to economic prosperity and growth,” he said at the World Petroleum Congress.
But according to the IEA, an independent agency funded by governments through the OECD, cheap oil may not be what the future holds if governments don’t spend trillions of dollars more on clean energy technology.
“Prolonged euphoria [oil and gas] “prices would occur if declining investment in fossil fuels in this scenario preceded the expansion of clean energy and action to reduce overall energy demand,” the report says.
In other words, climate investment must come first or gas prices will skyrocket.
The IEA’s argument is simply economic. When governments invest in alternatives to fossil fuels, demand for fossil energy will fall. And as demand falls, existing oil production will be enough to keep prices stable.
counting the cost
The problem is that repeated evidence shows that spending on the kind of technology the world needs to keep fuel prices affordable falls short of the IEA’s goals.
In its latest net-zero emissions outlook, the agency says a clean energy technology boom would reduce the need for fossil fuels by 25 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. But that transition will require global spending current 1.8 trillion dollars. US per year will increase to 4.5 trillion dollars.
American oil giant Exxon has expressed doubts that will happen, saying global temperature rise will cross the 2C barrier and emissions will only decline by 25 percent by 2050.
“The underlying problem is that most mainstream politicians have adopted a convenient half-truth about climate change,” writes Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times, warning that the growing populist backlash could block the green transition.
Basically, Rachman writes, green politicians have been ignoring the true costs of making the transition, both in budget spending and growing consumer anger, particularly over gas prices. As governments face other budget demands and worry about short-term economic downturns, their resolve is weakening.
The evidence includes UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision last week to delay British climate targets, including a five-year delay in banning gas-burning cars and a nine-year delay in phasing out of natural gas heaters. And there are fears that this type of setback could spread. Canadian Pierre Poilievre has promised to reduce the carbon tax if he is elected. Former US president and Republican front-runner Donald Trump offered glowing criticism of Sunak’s action.
“I always knew Sunak was smart, that he wasn’t going to destroy and bankrupt his nation by clueless fake climate alarmists,” Trump wrote on social media.
Hyder Ali points to the Liberal government’s repeated delays in limiting emissions from the Canadian oil and gas industry, which he attributes, at least in part, to the lucrative industry’s massive lobbying.
And it’s not just climate-skeptic politicians who vote with their wallets. Canadians with the cash to do so continue to travel the world and pay for large trucks and SUVs. They don’t like expensive gasoline.
Despite signs of retreat, Rachel Doran, director of policy and strategy at Clean Energy Canada, a think tank based at Simon Fraser University, remains optimistic that people will look beyond short-term costs. deadline to stop climate change.
“Our continued expansion of fossil fuels threatens to undermine our ability to meet our climate goal,” Doran said. “As we’ve seen over the past year, Canada’s big oil companies are already backtracking on their climate commitments.”
But Doran remains convinced that Canadian consumers will lead the way, in part because repeated surveys show they care about the climate, but also because it will save them money.
Cost of living9:15Watch the gap
In a report published this morning Clean Energy Canada calculates that the owner of a single-family home in Toronto can save $800 a month on energy bills, primarily by going green.
Doran calls the idea that people must choose between climate and affordability “a false dichotomy.”
“These are options for everyone and they are simply better, more efficient and more affordable,” Doran said, and the same applies to business-focused government investment.
“Tomorrow’s export opportunities for Canada will be in the clean energy industries,” he said. “These are the industries that are growing globally, whether or not Canada enacts its own climate policies.”
Note: This is Don’s last article as a business columnist for CBC as he retires and looks forward to his next adventure.