DEBATE: Does the Oil & Gas Divestment Campaign Hurt or Help Canadians?

DEBATE - Does Canadian oil and gas divestment campaign hurt or help our families, energy security and the environment cover

Mark Ruffalo and other Hollywood Celebrities have continued to call for divestment from Canadian oil and gas, saying that projects like Coastal GasLink are in direct violation of the rights of First Nations communities. Also see MYTH: Wet'suwet'en Do Not Support CGL Pipeline.

So then, is divestment from Canada's world-class oil and gas sector a good thing for Canadians, global energy security or the climate? Those are good questions, explored on The Mike Smyth Show's debate between Canada Action and The Wilderness Committee, airing on September 19th, 2022.


Or, keep on reading for everything said between Cody Battershill, Chief Spokesperson and Founder of Canada Action, and Peter McCartney, Climate Change Campaigner with The Wilderness Committee.

Should We Divest from Canadian Oil & Gas?

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Mike: The escalating battle now against oil and gas development in BC. In Canada, it is the oil and gas divestment campaign.

This is pressure on banks, public institutions, organizations to cancel any investments they have in oil and gas projects. Of course, it's all about the effort to fight climate change. Got a great panel standing by to discuss this.

First, have a listen to this here. Now, this is an example of this divestment campaign. This is actor Mark Ruffalo. He is a fierce opponent of oil and gas development in Canada. Here he is calling out the Royal Bank. Have a listen to this.

Ruffalo: I'm rising in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Indigenous land defenders against the RBC financed Coastal GasLink pipeline.

RBC is Canada's number one fossil fuel bank and the fifth worst offender in the world, bankrolling coal, oil and gas to the tune of $160,000,000,000 and counting since the Paris agreement was signed in 2016.

RBC, you have the power to stop CGL. There's no way to spin this as responsible investment. This is in direct contradiction of your climate commitments and reconciliation rhetoric.

Mike: Okay, this actor, Mark Ruffalo, there going hulk mode against pipelines.

All right, let's discuss this now. This divestment campaign against oil and gas, great panel for you this morning.

Cody Battershill. He's the founder of the group Canada Action. They support Alberta oil sands. Hey, Cody, thanks for coming on again.

Cody: Thanks Mike for having me.

Mike: Okay, also on the line is Peter McCartney, climate change campaigner at the Wilderness Committee. Peter, thank you for being here again today.

Peter: You bet. Thanks for having me.

Mike: Okay, guys, thank you to both of you. Peter, let me go to you first. You support this divestment campaign, right? Tell me why.

Peter: Of course, I support the divestment campaign.

I think when people are invested in a company, that means they believe it has a future, that it will continue to grow. And for oil and gas companies, that is at odds with a safe planet.

And it has always been wrong to invest in a product that you know is killing people. And that is what fossil fuels are doing all around the world. In Pakistan and in British Columbia, Puerto Rico.

These climate disasters are wreaking havoc in our communities, and investing in the future of these companies is wrong.

Mike: Cody, what do you say to that?

Cody: Divesting from fossil fuels during a global energy crisis is a direct security threat to Canada and our allies. Food, energy and geopolitical security all depend on affordable, accessible, reliable energy that is not weaponized.

If we want to talk about who's being killed right now, Russia and Ukraine and many other countries around the world that don't share our values for protecting people and reducing emissions... there's a balance to this.

The only people who benefit from divesting Canadian oil and gas and from the actions of Peter and his group are our competitors. Like Saudi Arabia, Russia, UAE, Iran and other countries that don't share our values.

Mike: Peter.

Peter: That's just not true. There's been $40 trillion divested from oil and gas companies and coal companies over the past few years since that campaign started. And what that has done is that has moved money from the problem to the solution where people are investing in renewable energy.

The reason that we are seeing Europe have to respond to this war in Russia and Ukraine is because they are so dependent on fossil fuels. If we had done this decades ago when we said we would, we would no longer have to rely on these despotic regimes that use oil and gas as a weapon.

So the best solution to making those people have no power whatsoever is to divest from fossil fuels and get on renewable energy as fast as possible.

Mike: Hey, Cody, is there any evidence that these divestment campaigns are actually working? Like, we just played that clip of actor Mark Ruffalo saying, calling on the Royal Bank to stop funding this pipeline. Is that actually working?

I don't see how a bank is going to pull out of a project that they're committed to. But your thoughts?

Cody: Hollywood millionaires like Ruffalo, and Peter like to highlight a few Indigenous Peoples and communities that might be opposed to these projects, but they ignore the massive majority of peoples in communities and businesses that are Indigenous that do support these projects.

Mark doesn't have to worry about where his money is coming from. He's a millionaire. Peter has got a nice job with Wilderness Committee.

We need balance. These communities have a right to say yes as well. And we have seen a massive economic impact to Canada.

For example, when StatOil sold their Alberta oil sands assets because Peters' buddies at Greenpeace were protesting in Norway, they went and immediately invested almost the same money into Brazil.

Global demand for oil and natural gas is growing. We can see the truth and the facts, contrary to what Peter is saying, that demand for all energy is growing.

Canada is a leader in renewables. We need renewables. But we can't black out our society today, which is what would happen if we went with Peter's plan.

Mike: Okay, Peter, go ahead and respond to that then. We're going to put a quick break in here. Go ahead.

Peter: There's nothing to do with blacking out society. We have all of the technology we need to get off oil and gas, and what's missing is the political will.

And when companies, when banks are invested, literally invested in these oil and gas companies continuing to operate, continuing to grow, that means they are using their political power to fuel climate change.

And by removing that literal investment in this future that is going to wreak havoc across the world, we are shifting the calculus for decision-makers to move faster to green energy.

Mike: All right, welcome back. As we continue debating oil and gas divestment in Canada, the pressure on banks and other groups to cancel their funding of oil and gas projects.

Got both sides of it for you, Cody Battershill, Peter McCartney. Let's go to your phone calls.

Here, Scott, in Surrey. Hi, Scott. Go ahead.

Scott: Yeah, hi, good morning. Great topic.

My question is simple. I'm a pensioner, right? And I've got money invested in banks and all sorts of stocks and I get dividends from that which helps supplement my old-age pension.

So if we get out of this, if they follow the lead of the Wilderness Committee, is the Wilderness Committee going to come in and make me whole?

Are they going to sit down and pay the shortfall because everybody got out of oil and gas?

Mike: Yeah. Peter, what do you say to him? Peter, go ahead.

Peter: So what we're seeing is that lenders and banks and financial institutions are recognizing that investing in fossil fuels when all of the assets on these companies books cannot be burned if we are going to maintain a safe climate, is a bad investment.

And so we've seen my union pension. The BCGEU has decided to divest and they have made money over what the stock market has performed because they decided to do that years ago.

And so there is no shortfall by divesting from some of the riskiest companies around. What you're actually seeing is that people are able to invest in technologies like solar and wind and green energy that have a future and that can pay the dividends that pensioners like yourself are looking for.

Mike: Okay, Cody, what do you say to that?

Cody: Peter says talks about divesting, but he's specifically talking about Canada because all these big banks and all these institutions are still doing business elsewhere.

The world has invested trillions in renewables and yet fossil fuels are still 80% of global demand. Even Elon Musk is saying the world needs more Canadian oil and gas.

We have to be pragmatic and honest. Respectfully, I would say that divestment in Canada is neither and we need to support local Canadian jobs.

Oil and gas is a massive, multi, tens of billions of dollars into our economy every year, more than a half trillion since the year 2000 to fund our social security, our quality of life.

And what Peter is saying is let the other countries have the market share with weaker environment and climate and human rights standards at the expense of only Canadians. And that's not fair, it's not pragmatic.

Peter: I have to respond to that, Mike.

Black Rock, the largest financial institution in the world, has divested from coal, oil and gas all around the planet. Divestment is a global movement, and it is absolutely applying to every country.

Cody: Peter, you have only been helping Russia and OPEC all these years because global demand has never been higher for coal, oil and natural gas. And I think that we need more Canadian energy...

Peter: That is not true. Anyway, I'm not going to try and talk over you here, maybe we can talk about it...

Mike: Okay, let's squeeze another call in here while we can. Steve in the West End. Hi, Steve. Go ahead.

Steve: Hi there. I saw a recent podcast from Dr. Jordan Peterson and guest and they both had the obvious consensus that speeding in traffic kills more people than when going a balanced speed. But they also came to the understanding that you can't go 1 km an hour on the freeway even though it would stop deaths in traffic.

So his ultimate theme was, look, sure, climate change is bad, but we need to have a reasonable transition and it takes a reasonable amount of time. You can't just, bam, stop it and change the speed limit.

Mike: Yeah, that's an interesting metaphor. Peter, your thoughts on that?

This gets back to the whole argument about the point that Cody made earlier about blacking out the economy. Or you can't turn it off like a light switch overnight. But anyway, your thoughts?

Peter: Of course we can't turn it off overnight, but the faster we are able to eliminate burning fossil fuels, the more lives we will save.

10 million people were displaced in Pakistan when one storm came through and flooded a third of the country. A billion people are forecast to be displaced by the middle of the century by climate disasters.

We can prevent as much of that as we can, and we have all the technology we need to do it. So we should be moving as fast as possible.

We shouldn't be talking about liquified natural gas exports and continuing to expand and grow the oil and gas industry, which we know is causing this problem. We should move as fast as possible.

And I think when we actually decide as a species to get that done, we can do it pretty fast. We are capable of great things.

Mike: Go ahead, Cody.

Cody: Global coal demand has never been higher. Canadian LNG will reduce global coal demand, which is higher emissions.

Second, when we look at what's happening in Europe, we have to also talk about energy security and environment. And that's Canada's leading role.

And third, when we look at the oil and gas companies in Canada, they've been among the biggest investors in renewables and clean technologies and carbon capture and everything else.

And if we divest from them, what Peter is saying and what Peter is doing, they don't add up.

We can reduce global emissions by supporting Canadian oil and gas and supporting local Canadian families, communities, indigenous communities and jobs.

Mike: Squeeze in. One more call. Dev in Vancouver. Hi, Dev. Go ahead.

Dev: Hi. Someone just mentioned BlackRock. I want you to go onto their website. They have something investing in China.

BlackRock, they are investing there with no environmental standards. Bill Barr just wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal calling them out on that.

Let's stop the hypocrisy and this fantasy land that we live in, okay? Because they are investing in China where the Uighurs are being exploited.

Mike: Okay, Peter, what do you say to that?

Peter: They are not investing in coal, oil, and gas in China because that is the policies that they have set out to divest from fossil fuels.

Obviously, we should not support investment in countries that have horrific human rights abuses, but we should also take a look at the human rights abuses occurring in our own country where we have overridden the rights of Indigenous communities to the land and waters that they have access forever as part of their culture and the right for their culture...

...said no to oil tankers coming through their territories. So you cannot say that their rights are not being violated.

Mike: Okay, Cody. Go ahead.

Cody: I was just going to say that Peter knows for a fact a majority of Indigenous Peoples on Trans Mountain and on Coastal Gas link support that project.

You need to listen to everyone, Peter, and have a balanced opinion and stop misleading people, because it's not true what you're saying.

Peter: The majority of Indigenous people support these projects. What we know is that there are some Indigenous communities that support it. There are some that don't.

They're complex governance structures. And every community... I say it all the time. I have never said that Indigenous People full stop, oppose these projects.

What I'm saying is that [First Nation] specifically has opposed the Trans Mountain pipeline coming through their territory for over a decade, and it is wrong to continue to build it when it puts their culture at risk.

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