Perverse leadership in ‘immunity via collective failure’ globally

Chrystia Freeland

An open letter to Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland

Minister Freeland,

an open letter regarding ‘there’s nothing inconsistent about the federal government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while promoting a thriving oil and gas sector on the Prairies’.

Climate change is a suite of potential dangers. Canadian governments have agreed in international treaties going back three decades to try to limit GHG emissions so as to stay safe below an emissions ceiling to prevent the possibility of ‘dangerous climate change’: existential, civilization if not humanity threatening dangers such as runaway warming or abrupt climate change.

Climate science long regarded 450ppm/2C as the guardrail to stay safe but many knowledgeable climate scientists led by Dr. James Hansen argued that 2C was too deep into potentially dangerous territory and that humanity would only stay safe if we limited emissions and warming to 350ppm/1C. As the science of our novel climate change predicament got more precise the international agreement Canada signed at the Paris COP recognized that keeping emissions and subsequent warming as far below 2C as possible was the very least we should be doing to protect our global society’s safety and our kids future.

Now, after three decades of mitigation failure, with GHG emissions continuing to increase globally, it will take an immense global effort requiring deep systemic change to even stay under 2C. And, considering only the runaway warming danger, the evolving climate science strongly suggests that there is a potential cascade of latent feedbacks and a threshold to Hothouse Earth as close as one more failed mitigation decade.

But GHG emissions continue to rise. This is why Greta and the kids are out in the streets. We know better but we don’t/can’t get to effective mitigation action. Very few governments globally have achieved even their modest emission reduction targets. The few jurisdictions leading in emission reduction – the UK, Germany, California, for example – are only achieving a fraction of their emission reduction needed and almost all nations have lapsed into ‘immunity via collective failure’ where what mitigation planning exists are plans to fail like Canada’s Pan-Canadian Framework which is projected to not even meet its too small by half Harper-era targets.

Our climate predicament is dire, an emergency, we are rapidly heading for warming that promises to crush our civilization and all we love and care about, and our governments are getting worse not better at achieving needed emission reduction. We need leadership and action urgently but instead our governments are choosing collective failure.

In this dire climate context Minister you have argued that we can still have a thriving oil and gas sector which implies, in our present economic governance, an energy sector that continues to expand production.

Ms. Freeland, you are by far the most thoughtful and competent member of your Liberal government. It is therefor so distressing to hear you miseducating Canadians about what has to happen in regards to fossil fuel production in Canada. Half a decade ago McGlade Ekins clearly showed that in order to stay under 2C we would have to regulate a managed decline of fossil fuel production, especially of the oilsands in Canada. Since that time the urgency has only increased, the carbon budget has gotten smaller and, far from the kicking-the-can-down-the-road 100% by 2050 obfuscation target, we need something like a 60% reduction by 2030.

Ms. Freeland, we desperately need leadership. Now; from Canada that is one of the worlds largest producers of fossil fuels; a real plan – not another plan to fail. We need leadership in getting out of denial and ongoing collective failure. Leadership in recognizing that we must commit to rapidly winding down fossil fuel production, to including supply-side policies because climate is an emergency.

After three decades of failed mitigation and with a projected 2.5-4C rise in global mean temperature this century, with fossil fuel production projected to keep increasing past 2040, we desperately need Canadian leadership. And, first of all, we need honesty and leadership from those in government that we would expect to trust, that we would expect to protect the best interests of all Canadians, today, but especially generations of Canadians into the future.

There is no safe future without effective mitigation urgently. Effective mitigation now must mean a regulated managed decline of fossil fuel production in Canada and globally. No new infrastructure; no new production facilities – oilsands or LNG; a Green New Deal style plan to build renewables and help fossil fuel producing regions transition. Nothing less.

Most urgent of all, we need your leadership in stopping miseducating Canadians about what effective mitigation must now mean. The all important first step is getting out of denial. The Liberal government attempt to balance continuing fossil fuel production expansion with pretend climate mitigation has been perverse leadership in ‘immunity via collective failure’ globally. Pretending to be climate leaders while continuing to do what ever you can to expand production is unconscionable. Our kids need real climate action, not continuing denial.

We do need to build a national consensus on climate action. It must be about emission reduction of a scale needed and that must mean a managed decline of fossil fuel production. A winding down of production could still be a money maker for the oil and gas industry – better profit margins on reduced production – and that would be great for the needed transition, for the broader transition to a post-carbon economy.

Now this is a too long email but I have barely sketched how your messaging this week has miseducated and harmed Canadians. I’m hoping you care about our common future and doing the right thing and that, responsible for your actions, you will consider my plea for real leadership instead of continuing denial. We should be doing everything in our power to reduce emissions; we should be doing everything possible to get back under the relatively safe 350ppm/ 1C guardrail. We have to stop lying to ourselves about our failure to achieve effective mitigation.

Thanks for your time. If you (or a delegate from your office) would like an informing dialogue on this effective climate mitigation subject I’d participate fully at your direction,

Bill Henderson     Gibsons, BC




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