For the finale of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) climate summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, world leaders have agreed to “transition away” from fossil fuels by 2050. The deal, which was reached after a night of plenary discussions and debates, calls for a tripling of renewable energy capacity around the globe and a doubling of energy efficiency by 2030, which was supported by Canada.

Nearly 200 countries at COP28 were present for the decision on the first “global stocktake,” which explicitly recognizes, for the first time in the history of the these climate change summits, that the world needs to transition away from all fossil fuels, and towards cleaner alternatives, especially renewable energy.

“Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell in his closing speech. “Now all governments and businesses need to turn these pledges into real-economy outcomes, without delay.”

While the deal does not issue an immediate ban, it does call on countries to contribute to global efforts to transition “away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”.

“Our team worked hard on the ground to build consensus on an improved final text that all countries could get behind. With the help of a diverse Canadian delegation, we stayed true to our core values, including human rights, the rights of Indigenous peoples, gender equality, and environmental integrity,” said Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

“The Canada pavilion at COP28 highlighted Canada’s whole-of-Canada approach to climate action and was a central networking hub for key partners and stakeholders, and a platform where Indigenous and youth voices were shared with the world.  Over two weeks, the Canada pavilion hosted more than 70 events, including events hosted by Indigenous representatives, youth, provinces and territories, municipalities, civil society, businesses, and non-governmental organizations.”

Here at home, the reaction from environmental advocates has been largely positive. “This is an extraordinary turning point for these negotiations that has come far later than it needed to,” states Catherine Abreu, the founder and executive director of Destination Zero, Catherine Abreu, is an internationally recognized, award-winning campaigner whose work centres on building powerful coalitions to advance action on climate change. “Policymakers and  investors take note: You will be held to this decision. No loopholes, no delay.”

The David Suzuki Foundation questions the “loopholes” in the agreement, but welcomes the call to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030. The David Suzuki Foundation stands in solidarity with social movements, scientists and Indigenous Peoples around the world who are calling for a fair and fast phase-out of fossil fuels.

The David Suzuki Foundation also welcomes the Canadian government’s announcements about advancing key domestic regulations to limit pollution from the fossil fuel industry. This includes draft regulations for methane emissions and a draft framework for an oil and gas emissions cap. However, the Foundation is calling for these policies to be strengthened and finalized as soon as possible.

On December 7, Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, introduced Canada’s draft framework to cap pollution from the oil and gas sector to reduce emissions and remain competitive in a shifting global market. The proposed emissions cap sets a limit on pollution, not production.

The proposed Regulatory Framework for an Oil and Gas Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cap was developed following extensive engagement with industry, Indigenous groups, provinces and territories, and stakeholders. It proposes to cap 2030 emissions at 35 to 38 percent below 2019 levels, while providing compliance flexibilities to emit up to a level about 20 to 23 percent below 2019 levels. The greenhouse gas pollution cap puts a limit on the amount that the sector can pollute and will be key to making sure we reduce our emissions as a country, on the road to reaching net zero by 2050.

The greenhouse gas pollution cap will spur reductions over time at a pace and scale needed to ensure the sector achieves net-zero emissions by 2050, which aligns with provincial and industry commitments. This framework comes at a critical time for Canada, with many Canadians having seen firsthand the impacts of the climate crisis—from floods, heatwaves, and wildfires to economic loss and health impacts.

“Every sector of Canada’s economy must do its part to combat climate change and build a safe, prosperous, and healthy future for Canadians. All sectors of our economy need to reduce their emissions, and that includes oil and gas companies,” said Guilbeault.

“The Government of Canada’s plan to cap and reduce emissions from Canada’s largest emitting sector is ambitious, but practical. It considers the global demand for oil and gas—and the importance of the sector in Canada’s economy—and sets a limit that is strict, but achievable. Canadians have always risen to the challenge of building a brighter future, and this greenhouse gas pollution cap will help Canada compete and succeed in a world that is moving to a clean-energy future.”

According to the most recent National Inventory Report, Canada’s oil and gas sector accounted for 28 per cent of national emissions in 2021, making it the largest contributor to Canada’s emissions, followed by the transportation sector at 22 per cent.

Government of Canada also published the first Progress Report on the 2030 ERP to provide an update on progress toward the 2030 target, based on Canada’s most recent inventory of historical emissions and recently updated emissions projections. The publication is timely, as Canada participates in the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), where ambitious mitigation action is front and centre.

Featured image: Fossil fuel announcement at COP28. (Credit: Kiara Worth | UN Climate Change)

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