There are eight known fossil fuel lobbyists in Canada’s official party delegation to COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. In fact, the number is up a record-breaking 25 per cent from last year — more than 600 are fossil fuel lobbyists and executives.
Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, drew ire from delegates when photos were snapped of senior vice president of RBC, John Stackhouse (Canada’s largest investor in fossil fuels) and Suncor Vice President of Sustainability (one of the largest crude oil companies on the planet), Jon Mitchell, standing in the Canada Pavilion.
After years of back-to-back human rights atrocities and environmental disaster in so-called Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s proud declarative “Canada is back” to climate negotiations ahead of COP21 in Paris, feels like a fever dream.
From the militarized invasion of Wet’suwet’en, to the recent drilling under their sacred river, to the approval of the Bay Du Nord oil project, and mass federal investments into the science fiction technology carbon capture and storage (CCUS) to prolong fossil fuel extraction as long as possible, the phrase “Canada is back-sliding,” feels more on the mark.
The anger and outrage was palpable amongst Canadian delegates as they furiously scrolled through the program schedule of Canada’s Pavillion on their tablet computers. Event after event with major fossil fuel and resource extraction corporations dominated the programming. Among the most protested in week one were The Pathways Alliance (a collection of the highest grossing and largest tar sands corporations), and the Forest Product Association of Canada (FPAC) session.
Today we walked out of @PathwaysNetZero event where fossil fuel executives explained why we’ll need the tar sands into 2050. While Canada adds these fossil FOOLS to its delegation, we know corporate interests have no business in climate negotiations. #COP27 #KickBigPollutersOut pic.twitter.com/RA7Z8ei21C— Maya Menezes (@MayaLillianM) November 11, 2022
While Pathways declared the need for oil and gas “beyond 2050,” FPAC proudly indicated that wood products can hold as much carbon as a standing forest, and that the best fire protection strategy is increased logging, which they are now rebranding as “forest treatment.”
Unfortunately for us all, the greenwashing of climate solutions cannot mask the back-to-back catastrophes facing communities from the Salish Sea to Mi’kma’ki.
False solutions like carbon capture and storage cannot address 80 to 90 per cent of emissions from Canadian fossil fuels, and the federal carbon pricing plan erases the vast majority of emissions entirely, by not accounting for downstream emissions. As a result, a few things become clear about how this government is operating. First, this isn’t about public safety. This is about extracting as much private profit as humanly possible before the party ends for fossil fuels. Second, as long as you roll with the Government of Canada, listening to the science and frontline communities is not on the table.
Catherine McKenna, Canada’s former minister of environment and climate change, turned heads at COP27 when she did a 180 on her entire in-office speaking points.
McKenna, now freed from the constraints of her role, demonstrated an insidious confirmation of how captured the federal government remains by private fossil fuel interests. Speaking for the UN High Level Experts Group, she said “...you can’t be a climate leader and invest in new fossil fuel projects… you can’t use credits to meet emissions reduction goals… you can’t reduce emissions intensity instead of absolute emissions reductions.”
This comes on the heels of spending the entirety of her ministerial tenure looking into the eyes of her constituents and telling us the purchasing of an oil pipeline would be good for the planet and people. Can you get whiplash from cognitive dissonance?
In many ways, the veil has been formally lifted on where the social, economic and political loyalties of this government rest. The federal government is no longer quietly masking their intimate relationships with the biggest extraction and resource development corporations in the country. They’re proudly showcasing the depth of their partnerships on the international stage.
Ultimately, domestic policy is what makes or breaks international promises, which is what makes McKenna’s about-face so horrifying. It’s all well and good for her to just-now find a political conscience, but the consequences of her administration’s bowing to industry will be felt for generations, as it is already on the frontlines.
Political leaders like McKenna needed to have showcased the political bravery to stand against expanded fossil fuel projects when they were in process, not after the infrastructure to carry them out has already been built. Now, it’s Steven Guilbeault’s turn to either toe the party line or become a climate leader — sadly, it’s looking pretty grim so far.
The refocusing of this government on humanizing tar sands representatives, and inviting fossil fuel and banking executives into their inner circles, is putting climate action in extreme peril. The Canadian government is supporting the thematic morphing of the COP into the carbon stock exchange, turning the worst polluters into partners and their own communities into sacrifice zones.
Every single fraction of a degree of warming has a human and biological cost, from floods covering 30 per cent of Pakistan, to Lytton B.C. being wiped from the map. As we kick off week two of negotiations, the Government of Canada is playing with the lives of those most vulnerable in our world and telling us that some communities will simply have to die in the name of preserving the companies leading the climate crisis.
Now is the time for bold solutions that at their core demand no one is left behind. We need sweeping domestic and international legislation to meet the scale of the crisis we face — and which does not include big polluters.
Maya Menezes is the Senior Climate Justice Campaigner at Stand.earth and former Program Director of The Leap
This article has been corrected: The number of fossil fuel lobbyists is up 25 per cent from the previous conference in Glasgow.