The following is an abridged version of a letter sent to the office of the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, on behalf of the Green Economy Network.
Dear Mr. Guilbeault,
The devastating situation in Ukraine has marked a turning point. As lives are lost and millions of Ukrainians are turned from citizens to refugees following the Russian invasion, governments in the West have grappled with how to best respond to a situation considered unimaginable by many just months ago.
Putin’s aggression has also placed Canada at a fork in the road regarding the climate crisis. Oil industry proponents have seized on this moment to push Canada to increase its oil exports in the face of sanctions and rising global energy costs. This leaves our political leaders with a stark choice: either bow to pressure and turn their back on the commitment to net-zero emissions or commit to creating a thriving economy less dependent on oil and gas.
We are pleased that you have publicly rejected such calls and recognize that one crisis cannot be offset by exacerbating another. From the perspective of our climate future, the choice is clear: our planet’s ecosystem cannot afford anything but a full transition to the green economy of the future. As you know, the rise in oil prices highlights the need to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels, not further entrench it.
Now is the time to heighten the ambition of Canada’s federal climate policy. As the release of Budget 2022 approaches, we are hopeful that you will use this moment to double-down on the government’s commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 while ensuring workers and communities are not left behind. This would mean:
- Passing a Just Transition Act that would support those who would be negatively impacted by a move away from carbon intensive production and the creation good union jobs through strategic investments in new and existing public services.
- Increasing funding for clean energy projects to speed-up the transition through the creation of publicly owned energy infrastructure. This would have the triple benefit of lowering carbon emissions, creating jobs, and mitigating the impact of volatile energy markets in the future.
- Enhancing government efforts to expand and green public transit, which would also decrease our reliance on fossil fuels.
In the meantime, high oil prices and the issue of energy poverty must be addressed by ambitious government policy, although not of the kind being called for by the oil lobby. Increasing Canadian oil production to bring down prices would be unfeasible in the short term and environmentally disastrous in the long run. Instead, as House Democrats in the US and the NDP here in Canada have proposed, the government should be raising taxes on oil companies—who are currently enjoying record profits—and using the revenue to help Canadians meet their energy needs.
The government cannot use this moment to back down on the much needed move toward a green economy. For the future of our planet, it is imperative that Canada be climate leader and expand transition funding that puts workers and communities first.