Election 2021

Where I stand on climate change

A voter sent me the following question:

I see you are taking some questions on your campaign positions and responding on your website.

I’m wondering what your position is on climate change action. The recent IPCC report paints a dire picture of the need for immediate and significant action to keep from worsening the climate catastrophe and the Canadian federal government is best placed to implement the wide-ranging changes we need.

The existing climate plans from federal parties vary a lot and have problematic areas. One of the Liberal’s main policies for example, the support of blue hydrogen, has been shown in a recent study to be just as bad as burning natural gas. 

What green policies would you support and advocate for if elected as the Lethbridge MP?

Here was the response I sent in reply.

Thanks for the question.

Climate change is serious, and this summer has been a strong indicator of that, with heat waves, wildfires, smoke, and drought-like conditions.

I wrote an article a few weeks ago showing that over the last 100 years, the weather in Lethbridge has become hotter and drier. And unless we do something about it, what we saw this past summer could become commonplace.

All nations around the world have a responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the primary driver of climate change. Canada is limited in what it can do regarding how other countries tackle emissions, but as a country that exploited energy sources for decades that increased our GHG emissions, we are obligated to contribute meaningfully to reversing the effects of climate change.

Since Canada signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, GHG emissions in the country have increased by more than 7 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. While emissions per capita and emissions per GDP have both been decreasing over the last 20 years, emissions overall are still increasing. Unless we do something about it, we won’t be able to reach net zero by 2050, as the Liberals promise, or even 50% of 2005 levels in the next 9 years, as the NDP promise.

In 2019, Canada’s GHG emissions were 730.3 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. More than half of that came from the oil and gas sector and the transport sector.

SectorEmissions% of total
Oil & gas191.426.2%
Heavy industry77.110.6%
Waste & others51.57.1%
in megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq)

The largest single contributor to GHG emissions in oil and gas is the oil sands, contributing to 43.4% of all GHG emissions in the entire sector. Natural gas, often touted as a clean energy source, contributed 27.5% of the GHG emissions in the sector. And that number will only go up as governments invest in blue hydrogen, which is fuelled by natural gas.

Emissions% of total
Natural gas52.727.5%
Oil sands: in situ42.722.3%
Oil sands: upgrading24.913.0%
Oil sands: mining & extraction15.58.1%
Conventional oil25.313.2%
in megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq)

As far as the transport sector goes, the largest contributors to GHG emissions were heavy duty trucks used in freight (34.87%) and light trucks used as passenger vehicles (29.64%).

Emissions% of total
Freight: heavy duty trucks64.7734.87%
Passenger: light trucks55.0629.64%
Passenger: cars 33.6318.10%
Freight: rail, aviation, marine13.257.13%
Passenger: motorcycles, bus, rail, aviation9.875.31%
in megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq)

These 4 contributors (oil sands, natural gas, heavy duty trucks, and light trucks) collectively account for 35% of all GHG emissions in the country. Any attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without addressing the emissions from these 4 areas will fail.

That being said, technologies such as carbon capture do almost nothing to reduce emissions; by capturing emissions and storing them underground, they allow industries to maintain the status quo: increase emission production.

As well, fiscal pressures (such as a carbon tax) will only go so far without fundamentally changing how our society functions.

For example, asking people in Picture Butte or Nobleford to use the bus more is meaningless if no buses operate in their community, let alone to and from Lethbridge. What are commuters in Coaldale and Coalhurst supposed to do instead of drive to work or school (or run errands) if there is no public transportation from their communities to their destinations? How are travellers supposed to get to Calgary for appointments with specialists now that Greyhound has shut down, other than take their own private vehicle?

If we want a society that produces less in greenhouse gas emissions, we must invest in infrastructure that makes that possible, such as robust public transportation networks. But we also must invest in technology that transforms emissions production in certain sectors, such as how the transport sector consumes energy.

Finally, as a country that has benefitted from the burning of fossil fuels for years to produce the wealth that allows it to invest in green solutions, it is obligated to help developing countries improve their economies in a way that helps them bypass the transitionary period of fossil fuel burning. Canada must invest heavily in foreign aid to assist these countries in achieving equitable levels of wealth without making the same environmental mistakes Canada did.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

2 replies on “Where I stand on climate change”

The usual measured and practical response to the serious environmental problem of our time. Thank you Kim.

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