Something incredible happened in New York City last week, as world leaders gathered for the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit.
This wasn’t the first of these summits – but it was the first one that focused on the concrete actions governments are taking to phase out fossil fuels.
For decades national and international climate plans and climate talks have avoided an obvious, but politically challenging truth: since fossil fuels are causing the climate crisis, we must phase them out. We must address the root cause of the crisis.
Why is this simple truth so challenging? A big part of it is the enormous political power and influence of the major companies behind the oil and gas industry, who have been so successful both at creating an economy based on fossil fuels as well as capturing governments around the world.
That’s why last week was so incredible. We heard world leader after world leader say what has been only an elephant in the room until now – that we must phase out fossil fuels. And it wasn’t just leaders from developing countries and small island nations – who are the ones who actually have been honest for years now – but also from major oil and gas producing governments.
The Governor of California put it plainly: “The climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis. It’s not complicated; it’s the burning of oil, gas, and coal, and we need to call that out. For decades and decades the oil industry has been playing each and every one of us in this room for fools.”
My message to the UN:
This climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis. It’s not complicated. pic.twitter.com/bHolZrtGyP
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 21, 2023
This summit took place after a weekend of events around the world that saw over half a million people in over 65 countries – with 50 events across Canada – demand a rapid, just, and equitable end to fossil fuels.
So we must transition off of fossil fuels quickly, and we must all ensure that it is done fairly. That means wealthy countries like Canada, who have benefited for decades from its oil and gas industry, must transition quickest
Yet Canada is actually planning to produce even more oil and gas – even though governments know that will make it harder to avoid climate catastrophe. In fact, Canada’s plans to expand oil and gas production are second only to the United States. That means Canada alone could be responsible for 10 percent of planned expansion globally.
That new production will lead to more devastating climate disasters. Canada is moving in the wrong direction.
But all hope is far from lost. The Government of Canada has promised new rules to cap and cut greenhouse gas pollution from the oil and gas sector. Canada cannot meet its climate commitments without forcing the oil and gas industry to do their share.
These rules were first promised two years ago, but we’re still waiting. Further delay n is inexcusable.