Canada’s Environment Minister, Steven Guilbeault, is urging the international community to commit to phasing out unabated fossil fuels at the upcoming COP28 climate summit. Unabated fossil fuels refer to oil and gas projects that lack technologies to capture their emissions.
During a meeting with international ministers from various countries, including Europe, Mexico, India, Japan, and China, Guilbeault outlined his expectations for COP28. He emphasized the need to eliminate fossil fuel projects without proper mechanisms to prevent carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere. While carbon capture has been proposed as a potential solution, its effectiveness at scale remains unproven.
Guilbeault stated, “We can make COP28 the first COP to acknowledge the need to phase out unabated fossil fuels.” The Conference of Parties (COP) is an annual United Nations event dedicated to climate change discussions, with the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) hosting COP28.
COP28 president-designate Sultan Al Jaber echoed Guilbeault’s aspirations by calling for the phasing out of fossil fuels. He emphasized the importance of focusing on renewable energy expansion, energy efficiency improvements, and a substantial increase in hydrogen production.
“We must be laser-focused on building the energy system of the future, a system free of unabated fossil fuels, including coal,” Jaber said.
While Canada and the U.A.E. are major oil producers, a joint statement issued by several countries aligned with the High Ambition Coalition, a climate diplomacy bloc, advocated for an urgent phase-out of fossil fuels. Ministers from France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, and others emphasized the need for a rapid decline in fossil fuel production and usage within the decade, rejecting the use of carbon capture technologies to prolong the lifespan of the oil and gas industry.
Caroline Brouillette, the executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, acknowledged that the term “unabated fossil fuels” still dilutes the required action for reducing carbon emissions. However, she recognized that the language used in the statement was more ambitious than what had been proposed by the U.A.E.’s COP president-designate.
In response to Guilbeault’s comments, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith criticized the net-zero electricity grid target for 2035 and the emissions cap on oil and gas, considering it a de facto production cut. Smith urged the federal government to collaborate with Alberta and invest in the national energy sector to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 while boosting energy production, job creation, and economic growth.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe also expressed criticism of Guilbeault’s remarks via Twitter, saying “the Trudeau government doesn’t want to just reduce emissions in our energy sector, they want to completely shut down our energy sector.”
Guilbeault engaged in discussions with ministerial counterparts and high-level representatives from various countries, including the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, China, India, and the U.A.E., during the Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action (MoCA) in Brussels. These discussions aim to implement the Paris Agreement and address concerns of wealthier nations ahead of the upcoming COP28 in Dubai.
In addition to phasing out unabated fossil fuels, Guilbeault urged wealthy countries to fulfill their long-overdue commitment of $100 billion US to assist developing nations in reducing emissions and adapting to climate change. Canada also advocates for the establishment of a loss and damage fund to compensate poorer countries for the inevitable economic, cultural, and human losses caused by climate change.
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