COP27 Takeaways: A Pragmatic Viewpoint from Canada

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The 27th annual United Nations Climate Conference – a.k.a COP27 – was held in Egypt this year. Among the more than 30,000 delegates, over 100 heads of state were in attendance.

And while all the attendees were enjoying the warm weather in the Middle East, here it was cold. Very cold.

Writing this, it’s minus 24 degrees Celsius and snowing in northern Alberta. We have considered ourselves lucky so far to have had such mild temperatures (yes, -24°C isn’t all that bad). Yet, sometimes it can reach as low as -46°C. It amazes me how humans can adjust to drastic changes in temperature, especially with fossil fuels.

As I stay warm in Canada thanks to natural gas, I ponder to myself:

• What was discussed this year at COP that wasn’t the last twenty-six times it was held?

• What are the major objectives this time around?

• Was a plan made on how the goal of net zero emissions will be achieved?

• Are all countries across the world on board with these plans?

• Are these climate change goals realistic and attainable?

• And what’s Canada’s role in it all?

What’s New at COP27?

Firstly, the goal at COP26 of limiting global warming to 1.5°C was kept alive. Nevertheless, many climate activists now want this number reduced to 1°C.

Next, extreme weather events and their effects on human civilization were highlighted. Also discussed were the disadvantages that developing countries have when trying to lower greenhouse gases (GHG), and as a result, an agreement on creating a “Loss of Damage” fund for these countries was reached.

There was also more representation from fossil fuel producers than in the past, primarily due to global energy security concerns. Imagine that!

COP27’s BIG Objectives:

  1. Mitigation -- How are countries reducing and preventing GHG.
  2. Adaption -- How will countries adapt and help others do the same?
  3. Climate Finance -- Financing for developing countries from developed countries.

Did COP27 Have a Plan to Reach Net Zero?

Many countries and organizations have different ideas on how to achieve net zero. Unfortunately, not all countries are on board with those aspirations.

Some African nations, for example, showed up to COP27 in protest that their countries are being starved of fossil fuel investment which would help uplift their people out of poverty.

At the same time, major GHG emitters like China, India and Russia were not in attendance at the conference. So how exactly will the world reach net zero when countries responsible for more than half of total global emissions are not in attendance?

Some people don’t agree with Greta Thunberg, but I have to on the term “greenwashing” that she’s been using here and there to describe actions taking place at the conference. Many governments, organizations and companies at COP27 used talking points which might satisfy some environmentalists, but the reality is that no real plan has been made to reach net zero.

Another reality is that there is no fully satisfying anti-development activists. Instead, as we’ve seen with the 1.5C to 1C, they constantly change the goalposts for their demands, making it harder to find balanced solutions to energy security and climate change.

From the world’s current global energy crisis, we all know that the transition from oil and gas will take much longer than anyone thinks. Plus, global demand for petroleum is still growing.

Just consider that between 2012 and 2021, $3.8 trillion was spent on renewables, and it only moved global energy demand from 82 per cent reliant on fossil fuels down to 81 per cent. Meanwhile, a report by McKinsey says over $9 trillion has to be spent yearly to reach net zero by 2050. That’s about 7.5 per cent of the world’s annual economy (or GDP), an incredibly colossal figure which is hard to comprehend.

Diminishing the role of Canadian oil and gas on global markets isn’t going to do anything for climate action. All it will do is put many Canadians and Indigenous Peoples out of work while giving away our global market share to other less responsible energy producers abroad.

Canada is Already Moving Towards Net Zero

Canadian oil and gas is already taking action to move towards net zero by 2050.

The Pathways Alliance is a group of six major oil sands producers in Canada working to address climate change, with the goal of net zeroing GHGs from production by 2050. They are creating new technologies to achieve this goal, committing $1 billion annually to develop cleantech research.

These producers also plan on storing 2.7 million tonnes of carbon in underground carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities in Alberta annually, equivalent to taking 600,000 vehicles off the road over the same time frame.

More impressively, the oil sands have reduced emissions per barrel by 22% from 2011-2019, and that number will only improve as new technology advances. The use of carbon capture pipelines and hydrogen reactors, molecular reactors and biofuels, new exploration and drilling practices, improving relationships and involving Indigenous people in projects, and the 25 million trees planted by oil sands producers since 2009 are all great examples of that.

Working in the oil sands, I’ve worked in land reclamation, so I have seen the effort being made to lessen our carbon footprint and restore our habitats. However, if the activist goalposts keep moving – which we’ve repeatedly seen environmentalists do in an attempt to stagnate the industry – and we keep giving in to their demands without having balanced conversations, achieving net zero without risking our energy security will be impossible to reach.

Canada’s Net Zero Opportunity

Canada’s abundance of energy resources means we have many opportunities to responsibly develop these resources for the benefit of our families and the world.

In many instances, fossil fuel companies are leading the way toward net zero. This is because they have the know-how to develop cleantech and the capital to invest in such projects because of their oil and gas business.

Even clean energies like wind turbines, solar panels and nuclear plants don’t come without some environmental impact.

By adhering to our world-class sustainable practices when developing new energy projects in Canada, we will remain a leader in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices. Through responsible environmental stewardship, we can continue to develop these resources and provide the world with the energy it needs while benefiting our communities here at home.

Global energy demand is projected to skyrocket by roughly 50% by 2050. Where will all that energy come from?

Canada needs to be placed in a more positive light all around. Oil and gas support Canada’s economy and our ability to invest in cleantech whether environmentalists at COP27 like it or not.

Let’s show support back by setting realistic and attainable goals that prioritize responsibly produced Canadian energy projects without unnecessary regulatory burdens that deter investors.

Canada can provide the world with responsibly produced energy, displace more emission-intensive forms of power generation worldwide, and keep our national economy thriving and families employed.

We can do all these things simultaneously, so let’s not think otherwise.

About the Author

Indigenous woman working in the oil sands industry in Canada

Estella Petersen is a heavy machinery operator in the oil sands out of Fort McMurray. Estella is from the Cowessess Reserve and is passionate about Canada and supporting Canadian natural resources.

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