Column: Dark days of Canada’s non-action on climate over

Justin Trudeau will taking his change message to Paris with the intent to re-set Canada’s commitment to mitigate climate change.

No one was really surprised when President Obama cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline project last week. After nearly seven years of dilly-dallying, he made the strategic statement in the lead-up to the all-important international climate conference (COP21) in Paris at the end of the month.

He gave Prime Minister Trudeau a heads up before making the announcement and, while Trudeau may have expressed disappointment (he was in favour of this TransCanada Corporation project going ahead), it’s not going to stand in the way of the two leaders developing a positive and constructive relationship in the future. After all, they are both on board about dealing with the consequences of climate change.

“If we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky,” Obama said.

In a couple of weeks, the governments of more than 190 nations will be in Paris to discuss – and hopefully ratify – a new global agreement on climate change aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the threat of dangerous climate change. Many believe we’re already on an irreversible path but the mitigation focus is for a massive cutback in carbon-driven energy.

COP21 comes at a time when oil prices have dropped by more than 50 per cent since the middle of last year. According to the International Energy Agency, they are likely going to stay low for the next five years because of plentiful supply and a falling demand in developed countries.

A lot can happen in the next five years in terms of stepped-up investment in clean renewable energy. A long-term de-carbonization plan is essential to stimulate investment in renewable energy development. There are already some promising signs.

According to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2015 report, “Renewables contributed almost half of the world’s new power generation capacity in 2014.”

The report forecasts that consumption of fossil fuel energy will continue to decline in the next twenty-five years as China’s dependence on coal plateaus, and demand for oil by the U.S. and the European Union declines by around four million barrels per day as viable alternatives kick in. Global demand for natural gas will be up by 47 per cent and oil and coal will collectively relinquish nine per cent of the global energy mix while renewables grow by five per cent. But natural gas, of course, comes with its own dark side given the consequences of fracking.

It’s a start but not enough yet to reach the target of keeping the world’s temperature increase to below two degrees C. Additional steps are needed including increasing investment in renewable energy technologies to $400 billion by 2030 from $270 billion last year.

Over the next five years, renewable energy will represent the largest single source of electricity growth driven by falling costs and an aggressive expansion in emerging economies.

With the dark days of Canada’s non-action on climate change under the Harper government behind us, PM Justin Trudeau and a posse of ministerial and provincial leaders will attend COP21. He’s taking his change message to Paris with the intent to re-set Canada’s commitment to mitigate climate change and rebuild relationships.

Coming up locally on November 19 is a screening of the documentary This Changes Everything based on Naomi Klein’s international best-selling book. It will be shown at G.W. Graham theatre, 45955 Thomas Road, Chilliwack, at 7 p.m. It’s 90 minutes long and sponsored by the Council of Canadians, Chilliwack Chapter. Following the presentation there will be a panel discussion.