COP27: « With Russia, it will be a difficult meeting », according to Steven Guilbeault


MONTREAL — Ottawa expects climate change talks to be complicated by the war in Ukraine.

COP27 opens on Sunday in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt, and Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault does not expect to find a benevolent or even collaborative attitude among his Russian counterparts. .

“With Russia, obviously, it will be a difficult encounter. It was never easy with Russia, but now it’s a completely different matter, » he admitted in an interview with The Canadian Press a few days before the opening of the United Nations Conference on climate changes.

« Under the best conditions, international negotiations on climate change are very complicated and they are clearly not the best conditions now, » he said.

China: less difficult

Mr. Guilbeault notes that even with China, the talks are rarely so difficult.

“We have very tense relations with China, but the Minister (of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie) Joly and the Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau) recognize that on files like climate change and biodiversity, we must work with the Chinese. We have to work with everyone because it is in our own interest to do so.

“I believe there is a growing recognition that it is in everyone’s best interest to work together to find solutions,” said the minister.

Canada’s credibility deficit

The Minister also knows that Canada will not be able to claim any leadership at this conference because it has a serious credibility gap to make up for. Despite the rhetoric, Canada’s carbon footprint does not live up to its claims, far from it.

Canadian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which were 600 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 1990, have almost always increased since then, reaching 738 megatonnes in 2019. A notable drop, to 672 megatonnes, has well was recorded in 2020, but this is the year in which everything stopped because of the pandemic and which could not, therefore, be invoked to claim a sudden movement to reduce emissions.

However, the government of Justin Trudeau promised in April 2021 to reduce its GHG emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030 compared to the 741 megatonnes of 2005.

“We never really tried”

Why should Canada, whose emissions have increased for 21 of the last 30 years despite commitments to reduce them, be believed? « Because we’ve never really tried, » replied Minister Guilbeault without flinching.

He lists in one go: the carbon tax his government successfully fought for all the way to the Supreme Court; regulations on methane emissions, a potent GHG, and clean fuels; the introduction (still in progress) of caps on emissions in the oil and gas sector; net-zero clean electricity regulations by 2035; zero-emission vehicle regulations.

“We are at more than $100 billion in investments in public transport, electrification, clean and renewable energies. All these things have never happened in the history of the country”, he said while it is still much too early to measure the effects of these measures, some of which remain to be completed.

Parties that pretend

« We must continue to move forward, » he continues, taking the opportunity to denounce the political parties in Canada and the United States « who believe that we can pretend to fight climate change by doing nothing, that we are in favor of fighting climate change, but that we are not in favor of reducing dependence on fossil fuels, putting a price on pollution and investing in clean technologies « .

Steven Guilbeault recognizes, however, that “turning the tide on emissions in a large country like ours takes time”. However, he believes he is in a position to present concrete results in the short term, particularly with regard to methane emissions.

The main component of natural gas, methane is the second most common greenhouse gas in Canada and alone accounts for approximately 15% of our total GHG emissions. However, it has a more powerful impact than CO2 since it traps more than 70 times more heat over a 20-year period than the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.

Methane: expected success in the short term

The oil and gas sector is the largest source of methane emissions and Ottawa has set itself the target of reducing these emissions by 75% by 2030, « which is, if not the most ambitious, the ‘one of the most ambitious targets in the world’.

Steven Guilbeault is extremely optimistic about this goal.

“We are starting to see a reduction in methane, whose emissions have started to decline. We will likely hit our 2025 target, at least the low end of the 40% range, before 2025.”

Moreover, the measurement of methane emissions is becoming more and more precise thanks in particular to satellite detection developed by cutting-edge companies such as Montreal’s GHGSat, which has undertaken to make its data on the methane.

« The involvement of GHGSat gives us credibility », maintains the minister, who recognizes in the same breath that self-declaration or self-assessment by companies is not always as rigorous as it should be.

However, satellite methane detection has its limits. While it is superior at identifying emissions from coal use, the oil and gas industry, and landfills – the most important sources – it cannot measure more diffuse emissions. from natural sources such as melting permafrost.


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