For decades, the fossil fuel sector ran a highly successful and well-funded campaign that muddy the waters on climate change. It denied the science, created false analogies and poured billions upon trillions of dollars into projects that were supposed to protect its profits. It was only a few years ago that the government began to investigate. this lie was exposed just as the impacts of climate change began to be felt widely around the world.
A new global consensus was reached. Global governments pledging to act on climate crisis were able to recognize that old-fashioned climate denial is no longer a winning strategy. Enter the “new climate denial,”This term is being used more often to describe not just outright denial of climate science but when corporations or politicians accept the climate crisis in words but fail to act as it in practice. Recent developments include COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, was truly the new climate denial’s coming-out party.
In the final hours, language in the Glasgow text was modified to shift a pledge to “phase out” coal to “phase down” coal. While this might seem somewhat innocuous (you do after all need to phase something down in order to phase it out), it’s really a perfect example of the new climate denial in action. It is obvious that fossil fuels need to be phased out, with coal being the most harmful.
But, coal companies don’t like that and want to try to prolong their lifespan as much as possible. A global agreement to phase out coal could have a ripple effect on project approvals, funding, and general social licensure. But, coal companies are much better positioned to make vague commitments about how they themselves are “phasing down” emissions with a range of schemes designed to buy them time while they try to make as much money as they can.
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This is the same basic principle at play in a lot of “net-zero” pledges. The origins of the idea of net-zero may have been well-intentioned, but when you dig into the plans of most big fossil fuel companies and countries making these pledges today, there’s a lot to be desired.
Take Canada, for instance. We’ve made a pledge to meet net-zero emissions by 2050. But, we still don’t have a clear roadmap for how our government plans to get there. And, looking at how they’re spending money in line with this promise, it’s fair to be worried they’re more focused on the “net” than the “zero” part of the equation, dumping billions of dollars into carbon capture technology, hydrogen, offsets and other unproven technologies and schemes the fossil fuel industry is pushing in order to keep itself in business.
And, according to Canada’s Big Oil Reality Check, a report released during the first week of COP26, Canada’s fossil fuel industry is at the “bottom of the pack” when it comes to climate action. None of the major oil companies, even those that came together to call themselves the, are listed. Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero initiative,You have a plan to achieve your goal.
It’s easy to understand why when you look at the latest International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook report. According to that reportThis is widely considered to be the best global energy forecast. Oil and gas demand must peak and plummet in the next years to keep us on the path to limiting warming to 1.5 C. This is the goal of the 2050 promises to reach net-zero.
And, net-zero and phase down aren’t the only weasel words coming to define the language of the new climate denial, especially in Canada. Canada joined an international coalition that pledged to end international fossil fuel financing within a matter of years, surprise announcement at COP26
However, the newly created Natural Resources Minister Jonathan WilkinsonHe was careful in explaining the announcement. tweeting out that Canada “will end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel sector by the end of 2022.”
The question is what he means by “unabated fossil fuel sector.” In Canada, Wilkinson spent a good deal of his time as environment minister lauding fossil fuel companies taking even the most minor actions to acknowledge the climate crisis. For a time, he even looked like a Shell Canada spokesperson when he was praising its bizarre pay-at-pump offset program. Drive Carbon Neutral.
This raises the question as to whether Wilkinson and others view those kinds of actions as enough for a fossil fuel company to get itself off the “unabated” list, and whether those actions are actually in line with what’s needed to keep warming below 1.5 C.
Governments are similarly pledging to end fossil fuel subsidies with the caveat that “inefficient” subsidies will be cut. But, like with their promises around international financing, they’re not clear on what the dividing line between an efficient subsidy and an inefficient one is. That’s worrying given that Canada’s approach to problems like abandoned oil wells has been to hand millions of dollars to wealthy fossil fuel companies to clean up messes those firms created in the first place and to call that an efficient subsidy. And that’s saying nothing of the potentially more than $20 billion that we’re spending to build the Trans Mountain pipeline expansionAnother subsidy that the government doesn’t seem to want to end is the one for e-commerce.
Opinion: Corporations accept the climate crisis in writing, but fail in deed to act like it, writes @CamFenton. #JustRecovery #COP26 #climatechange
Climate denial cost us crucial decades where we could address the climate crisis with lots of runway. We now have only years to reduce emissions and transition the world away from fossil fuels, thanks to a few incredibly wealthy fossil fuel companies. To do that, we can’t afford to let the new climate denial slow us down.
Canada’s politicians must keep their climate promises. Justin Trudeau’s 2019 vow to enact a Just Transition Act His most recent work promiseTo regulate and cap oil and gas emissions according to a 1.5 C climate target.