Analysis: Treating Canada’s energy paralysis could mean new climate targets, renewed political will – NationalOUS News

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If there has been a constant tension in the Confederation over the past 20 years, it has been a conflict between those who believe that Canada’s federal and provincial governments should do everything possible to harness Canada’s vast energy resources and those who believe People insist on fossil fuels they must live in the land so that Canada can lead the world in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

It is a tension that has led to economic and policy paralysis. During the years of the Harper government and now the Trudeau government, some major energy projects struggled to find their footing, while Canada missed one after another from international commitments to fight climate change.

Is that tension and the resulting paralysis a permanent feature of the Canadian situation? Or can Canada really become an energy superpower and become a global leader on climate change?

Answer of some is: Yes.

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“So I think it’s true that Canada is an energy superpower, and it’s true that I think Canada needs to do more on climate change. And I think it’s also true that we can both do that.” can,” said Christopher Ragan, an economist and director of the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University in Montreal.

“I think really we should have a more aggressive climate policy than we currently have. And I think it’s also possible that we can continue to produce fossil fuels. And I think we should, because The world will continue to use fossil fuels for a long time.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent disruption of global energy markets have moved this conflicting objective – producing more energy while cutting emissions – to the top of Canada’s national agenda.

Canada’s many Western European allies, especially Germany, are gas and oil hungry, Canada, despite its wealth of fossil fuels, can do almost nothing. The economic and policy paralysis of those years left it without the infrastructure to move, for example, liquefied natural gas from eastern Canadian ports to German homes and businesses.

But Russia’s invasion would have cured Canada of that paralysis.

“I think more practicality is being brought to the issue,” said former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who now serves as a special advisor at the law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, when he’s not on his ride. Horse through the grasslands of Southwest Saskatchewan

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“I think Canadians are looking at something through the lens of a more common sense. Not that they weren’t before, but I think there’s more focus.”

Wall, like Ragan, believes Canada has a way to achieve the twin objective of boosting energy exports while reducing emissions.

“I think it’s absolutely possible. I think we need a leader in Canada today. I don’t care what party that person leads, but we need a national leader who says We are all of the above,” Wall said.

“Canada is an energy superpower and not just on the fossil fuel side, but across the spectrum. And so let’s start acting that way as a country that aspires to lead and follows that with action, I think. That’s going to find this intersection of very good policies that are good for the economy, good for communities and can be sustainable in terms of environmental impact.”

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Still, solving the problem of getting gas or oil out of an Atlantic port could be the challenge of the century. First, if it is the private sector that builds pipelines and refines infrastructure for European exports, it is not clear that a solid business case can be made for the return on investment of the billions required under the current circumstances.

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It is partly a result of the huge political challenges involved that subsequent governments in Quebec have restricted new pipelines to transit through the province. And finally, a federal government will almost certainly need to build up the political will to convince Canadians that meeting its international commitment to become net-zero by 2050 is not only against the national interest, but In fact, may work against the more important goal. Getting the planet’s climate change ledger down to net-zero by 2050.

“I think Quebec is a difficult problem to solve,” Wall said. “I think Quebec will falter — and most provinces — on the notion of a federal government saying, OK, this pipeline is happening and we’re going to put the full weight of the federal government behind it.

“I think the answer should be premire, the goodwill they have created by saying, … Just find an answer here. We can do that.”


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From 2014 to 2019, when Wall was attending the premier’s annual meetings trying to find political solutions to energy and climate problems, Ragan chaired Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, a group of independent economists that focused on energy and tried to advise governments on climate policy.

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The commission clearly acknowledged the challenges that politicians face to find progress on both files with mostly practical recommendations.

“We live in a democratic society. So it’s not just about policy making. It’s about selling and communicating those policies,” Ragan said. “and I think [federal] The government hasn’t done a good enough job in communicating this. And that’s a tough argument.”

And a major energy infrastructure project, he said, would almost certainly require strong federal support.

“A pipeline is a federal issue. It is crossing provincial borders and we need our provinces not to be so damned provincial, clearly,” Ragan said. “They need to recognize that they are part of a larger country. are part of what is part of a larger world.”

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Realizing the expectations on Canada’s climate change goals will also be a requirement if Canada wants to boost its energy exports.

The targets Canada agreed upon, whether in Paris or Copenhagen or Kyoto, took place in a world where there was no compulsion to remove Russia as a reliable source of supply. Energy security was rarely, if ever, a variable plugged into the calculation to achieve net-zero in the Canadian context.

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Now that energy security is a global and Canadian imperative, the targets may need to be adjusted.

“Energy security isn’t just an issue in Europe. It’s an issue for us in Canada,” Wall said. “We still import oil. [We have] One third of the world’s reserves, and we are still important because we can’t get it all over the country. So this is an issue for the whole world. But now it becomes even more important what has happened in Europe.

“And does that mean – and maybe it won’t be very popular with some people – but does it mean that we look at our goals again? I think we should. So we can achieve that balance. and can answer both the questions the world is asking right now.”

Ragan suggests that Canadian policy makers and the broader Canadian public should consider Canada’s goals in a global setting where relatively clean Canadian natural gas could displace ‘dirty’ forms of energy such as coal so that the planet could be pure-air by 2050. to zero – even if Canada can’t.

“I mean, in the big picture, you’re doing a great job. You’re taking natural gas out of a country that has a pile of it. You’re liquefying it. You’re shipping it to that part of the world, Who needs it,” said Ragan.

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“They can use that natural gas instead of oil or instead of burning coal. So in a global sense, it would reduce emissions. This is a good idea. But in Canada it will increase emissions because we will burn piles of natural gas to run compressors for liquefied natural gas. And so we can exceed our goals. And then you say, maybe we don’t have the right domestic goal for a world that has these ambitions and these energy security issues.

Wall, in his advisory work at Osler, hears something similar.

“We should approach this issue of doing our part of the emissions question and the target question in the same way that balancing energy security on the other side of that equation is,” Wall said. “You have emissions reductions and targets and you have energy security. And right now we see Europe has a real energy security concern.

“This dependence on Russia is probably not existential, but its next-door neighbors, if you ask Ukraine, they might say it is.”


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“Energy security has clearly reared its head,” Ragan said. “So it wasn’t like that before. That’s why I say it’s completely changing this discussion. And I wonder how long it will be before a Canadian government — maybe this one, maybe the next — says, you Know that, we need to sell more of our stuff to Europe because of energy security issues and Russia, and so, we need to adjust our domestic targets.

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“Will they say that? Will they say that out loud?”

David Akin is the Chief Political Correspondent for Global News.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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