In recent days, Canada’s oil and gas lobby has tried to profiteer from the crisis in Ukraine to paint a massive expansion of Canadian fossil fuel extraction as the solution to Europe’s energy needs, a spin echoed by several provincial and federal politicians. Knee-jerk calls to build new pipelines to the East Coast to supply gas - which studies suggest might be as polluting as coal when gas leaks from wells and pipelines are accounted for - to Europe ignore the reality that such projects take a decade to complete, and that more volatile, foreign fossil fuels are not the solution for Europe.
The world’s dependence on fossil fuels has empowered Putin and funded his invasion of Ukraine. Before the pandemic, 40% of Russia’s federal budget came from oil and gas; last fall, Russia earned US $500 million a day from oil and gas. Western countries’ reliance on fossil fuels is undermining their response, with oil and gas exports still excluded from sanctions despite calls from Ukraine for a full embargo.
True energy security requires Europe and the world to fast-track energy efficiency and the transition to renewables such as wind and solar power, which are more stable, cheaper, and faster to scale up than fossil fuels - and they don’t operate at the mercy of geopolitical power plays.
Out of step with a world transition to low-carbon fuels, the oil and gas sector seems to be incapable of acknowledging that European countries - like many others - are no longer interested in deepening their addiction to fossil fuels and are now looking to speed up their energy transition. Earlier this week, Germany committed to speed up its renewable energy investments and the world awaits an announcement from the EU on its forthcoming renewable energy package.
In the spring of 2020, Canada’s oil and gas industry used the pandemic as an excuse to press the federal government to water down or suspend environmental regulations and to delay the introduction of UNDRIP legislation. Its current attempt to lobby for fossil fuel expansion should be recognized as more of the same: the desperate ploy of an outdated industry that has never failed to capitalize on a crisis.
This week’s IPCC report, cataloguing an “atlas of suffering,” underscored the dire consequences of the world’s addiction to fossil fuels and the urgent need to break the habit. As Svitlana Krakovska, the climate scientist heading Ukraine’s delegation to the IPCC, said when her team was forced to withdraw from the negotiations to move to bomb shelters: “Human-induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots: fossil fuels, and our dependence on them.”
Caroline Brouillette, National Policy Manager, Climate Action Network - Réseau action climat Canada:
“The fossil lobby is once again seizing upon a crisis with horrific human consequences to promote its destructive agenda. Doubling down on fossil fuel production will only further entrench energy insecurity and climate vulnerability. To defuse Putin’s weaponization of oil and gas, governments must prioritize human rights, energy security and a climate-safe future by accelerating their efforts towards a just transition away from fossil fuels.”
Émile Boisseau-Bouvier, climate policy analyst, Équiterre:
“The instrumentalization of the conflict by the fossil fuel industry and its political allies demonstrates a very poor reading of the situation, whereas it is precisely the dependence of states on Russia's dirty gas that has contributed to Putin's position of geopolitical power. It is quite sad and cynical to take advantage of this terrible situation to advance such a destructive and economically driven agenda and dress it up as a humanitarian gesture. Renewable energy sources and energy efficiency are the way towards greater security and independence.”
Dr. Angela Carter, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science & Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo, and member of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Net-Zero Advisory Council:
“Provincial politicians are promoting oil and gas development as part of a humanitarian response to the devastation in the Ukraine. This is a devastating ploy. Because what we need now—for both climate & economic stability—is for Canada and the petro-provinces to take a leadership role in phasing out fossil fuels and implementing a just transition. This is why citizens from across the country have joined together to oppose the Bay du Nord oil project off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. Expanding oil development is not part of any humanitarian or climate solution: it is throwing fuel on the climate fire.”
Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist, Greenpeace Canada:
“Fossil fuel companies are fueling the climate crisis as well as wars around the world at the cost and suffering of the most vulnerable. The war in Ukraine is another jarring reminder of how critical it is that world leaders get serious about breaking our ties to fossil fuels and to build a safe, secure renewable energy system for all. Rather than digging more carbon out of the ground, we need a rapid renewable energy transition away from fossil fuels that are driving the world deeper into the climate crisis and conflict.”
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Communications lead, Climate Action Network - Réseau Action Climat Canada
Anthony Côté Leduc
Media relations, Équiterre