Fossil fuel subsidies, plastics pollution, circular economy are key topics at the G7 Energy and Environment meetings

Following the G7  meetings at Charlevoix Quebec in June 2018, further meetings in Halifax from September 19 to 21 brought together the G7 ministers with responsibilities for Environment, Oceans and Energy.  The International Institute (IISD) published a comprehensive summary of the meetings  on September 25, with links to the official Chair’s Summary statements.  The National Observer was one of only a handful of media outlets which reported on these meetings.  Their report of September 25,  “Unscrambling the language of Canada’s G7 Climate Diplomacy”   is a plain language overview of what happened.  Environment and Climate Change Canada, as host of the meetings, also published press releases highlighting Canada’s commitments:  the press release of  September 19, titled “G7 environment meetings in Halifax focus on climate action, and the $26 trillion opportunity of clean growth and tackling air pollution”  announced a Canadian pledge of  $2 million for the National Adaptation Plan Global Network, to further climate change adaptation in  developing countries and $2 million for a new initiative to empower women entrepreneurs working on climate solutions in the developing world.  More broadly, Environment ministers discussed the  implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement on climate change – the Paris Rulebook –  in an attempt to move that forward before the scheduled deadline of the UNFCCC  Conference of the Parties (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018.

On September 20, the Canadian government’s press release states : the Government of Canada committed to diverting at least 75 per cent of the plastic waste from government operations by 2030. It will achieve this by eliminating the use of unnecessary single-use plastics, increasing recycling rates, and leveraging its purchasing decisions to focus on sustainable plastic products. The Government of Canada also announced a $65 million investment through the World Bank for an international fund to address plastic waste in developing countries. ”

A contentious issue was fossil fuel subsidies. An earlier report by the National Observer , “G7 promise to kill fossil fuel subsidies hangs over Halifax meetings” (September 20)  , highlights the topic, which has been a perennial but never-resolved issue since the G20 first agreed to phase them out in 2009.  In 2016, the G7 first set a deadline for ending fossil fuel subsidies by 2025  ; Energy ministers at the 2018 Halifax meetings reaffirmed that commitment.

public-cash-oil-gas-en-1Despite the G7 commitment, “Canada is still the largest provider of subsidies to oil and gas production in the G7 per unit of GDP”, according to the newest report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), which has published extensively on the issue.   Fossil Fuel Subsidies in Canada: ‘Public Cash for Oil and Gas: Mapping federal fiscal support for fossil fuels , a September 2018  report was published by  the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), in collaboration with Oil Change International, Equiterre, Environmental Defence, and the Climate Action Network.  It also states that overall fossil fuel subsidies declined in Canada in 2016-2018 over 2015, but it  attributes this to the impact of oil price fluctuations on the value of deductions, and how companies use tax deductions,  rather than any substantive policy reform.  In a concluding discussion , the report states that the oil and gas sector will inevitably follow the economic path of the coal industry, and thus, “it is imperative that those in these declining energy sectors are part of the planning” for a Just Transition. Removing subsidies for the sector,  could create enough “fiscal space” to fund a just transition for workers and communities.

Green Budget cover 2019The Green Budget Coalition also weighed in recently on fossil fuel subsidies in its  Recommendations for Budget 2019 ,  which includes a discussion of the history of fossil fuel subsidies in Canada, a rationale for their phase-out, and calls for the government:  to provide a transparent accounting of what subsidies are in place to the Parliamentary Budget Office; not to introduce new subsidies; and to legislate a timeline for the phase-out of remaining deductions for fossil fuel exploration and production, and for direct subsidies.

G7 Summit makes some progress on Just Transition, plastics pollution – but not on fossil fuel subsidies

G7 leaders 2018With the chaos emanating from Donald Trump’s performance at the G7 Summit   hosted by Canada on June 8 and 9,  it would be easy to miss the news about one of the five Summit themes :  Working Together on Climate Change, Oceans, and Clean Energy  . But according to a brief statement by Canada’s Climate Action Network,  G7 Stands it Ground : “The G7 should be congratulated for publicly acknowledging for the first time the need for a just transition…..Canada showed leadership by stickhandling this climate outcome as the G7 host. ”

In contrast to the Final Communique of 2017, which contained only one paragraph on climate change,  the 2018 Official Communique   includes four lengthly paragraphs (#23 – 27,  including #26 which is the independent statement of the United States).   Included:  “Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union reaffirm their strong commitment to implement the Paris Agreement, through ambitious climate action; in particular through reducing emissions while stimulating innovation, enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening and financing resilience and reducing vulnerability; as well as ensuring a just transition, including increasing efforts to mobilize climate finance from a wide variety of sources. ….  Also, Recognizing that healthy oceans and seas directly support the livelihoods, food security and economic prosperity of billions of people, …. We endorse the Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities, and will improve oceans knowledge, promote sustainable oceans and fisheries, support resilient coasts and coastal communities and address ocean plastic waste and marine litter. Recognizing that plastics play an important role in our economy and daily lives but that the current approach to producing, using, managing and disposing of plastics and poses a significant threat to the marine environment, to livelihoods and potentially to human health, we the Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union endorse the Ocean Plastics Charter.”

Background: As usual, several reports and position statements were released in advance of the international meetings.  The Climate and Energy Working Group of the G7 Global Task Force, (a broad coalition of over 40 civil society organisations) released  their  Recommendations  on a full range of climate change issues, and a separate Brief titled It’s Time for G7 countries to commit to Just Transition , which concluding with this: “Canada, as President of the G7, and building on the work of the Task Force on the Just Transition for Canadian Coal-Power Workers and Communities has the opportunity to elevate this discussion, and promote mainstreaming of just transition principles across all G7 priorities and discussions for the upcoming years.”

Other position statements:  The Global Investor statement to G7 leaders, signed by 319 investors representing more than USD $28 trillion in assets , and a Statement from the We Mean Business Coalition  .  Both business-oriented groups affirm their commitment to the Paris Agreement and made recommendations.

g7 fossil fuel scorecard infographics_canadaAlso, from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Oil Change International (OCI), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) : the G7 Fossil Fuel Subsidy Report Card , released on June 4 . It states that  G7 governments continue to provide at least $100 billion in subsidies to the production and use of coal, oil and gas, and ranks the G7 countries according to seven indicators: transparency; pledges and commitments; ending support for coal mining; ending support for exploration; ending support for oil and gas production; ending support for fossil fuel-based power; and ending support for fossil fuel use.  Using these categories,  Canada ranked 3rd out of the G7 countries overall, after France (1st) and Germany (2nd), followed by U.K., Italy, Japan, and the U.S. (7th).  This, against the backdrop of an Ekos Research  public opinion poll from March 2018 that shows Canadians want an end to fossil fuel subsidies in virtually every part of the country and across gender, age, region, education, and income. For a new discussion of the issue and the Scorecard report, see “Canada leads G7 in oil and gas subsidies” in The Narwhal.

The National Observer coverage of the entire G7 Summit is here, with a focus on the trade dispute, but including “G7 still negotiating as clock runs down on climate commitments and “McKenna praises IKEA move to ban single-use plastics by 2020” , which discusses the broader issue.

Reactions :  A compilation of reactions appears in “G7 Leaders isolate Trump on Climate” in The Energy Mix, and CAN-RAC  released a position paper in response  Shaping the Future: A new vision for civil society and the G7 .   Environmentalists, including Greenpeace,  called the Plastics Charter inadequate because it is voluntary,and focuses on recycling and repurposing, rather than reduction or an outright ban on single-use plastics.  The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) released a statement of support of the Ocean Plastics Charter on June 10 , also stating that its members: ” had committed to goals of 100 per cent of plastics packaging being recyclable or recoverable by 2030 and 100 per cent of plastics packaging being reused, recycled, or recovered by 2040.”

 

 

 

L7 leaders alert to backsliding on Just Transition at the G7 meetings; Unionists share  Just Transition experiences in Vancouver

clc-logoIn Ottawa on April 4 and 5, the Canadian Labour Congress, along with the International Trade Union Confederation and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC), hosted the L7 meetings of international labour leaders, as part of Canada’s presidency of the G7 this year.  According to the CLC press release, the L7 considered a full range of topics, including extension of bargaining rights, full employment, gender equity, and progressive trade – but also “ welcomed the creation of a new G7 Employment Task Force – a key outcome of the G7 Employment Ministers meeting in Montréal from March 26th to 28th.” The G7 Leaders’ official statement re Employment Outcomes and the Task force is here;  one of the “deliverables”  is to  “Share best practices and identify policy approaches to assist individuals in making the transition and adapting to changes in the labour market.”  In the L7 Evaluation of the Outcomes of the G7 Innovation and Employment Ministerial Meeting  released after the meetings, the unionists point out : “While discussing transitions, the text does not refer to “just transitions” in contrast to the outcomes of the Italian G7 presidency. The main proposals for transitions by the G7 focus on reviewing social protection and training systems. The support for “apprenticeship and training opportunities and adult upskilling programs” is welcome but is not enough and does not address financing and governance challenges.”  The CLC press release states:  “For trade unions, the Task Force should aim for “Just Transition” principles that ensure that workers are not paying the cost of the adjustment to decarbonisation, digitalisation and the shifts in production and services technologies.”

Just Transition Vancouver event 2018

Photo  by Tracy Sherlock, from the National Observer, April 6

On April 5 and 6th  in Vancouver,  labour leaders from around the world presented and discussed their experiences at the Metro Vancouver Just Transition Roundtable, hosted by the B.C. Federation of Labour,  the Canadian Labour Congress, Green Jobs B.C., the City of Vancouver, Vancouver and District Labour Council, and others.  Amongst the speakers:   B.C. Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger, who  argued that “the two defining problems of our time are climate change and inequality”, and they need to be addressed together, and urgently.  Samantha Smith, Director of the Just Transition Centre of the International Trade Union Confederation, provided European examples in her Keynote Address, and a spokesman from the United Federation of Danish Workers 3F, the largest trade union in Denmark, spoke of the clean economy investment of members’ pension funds.  Other union speakers were from New Zealand and Norway.   From Vancouver,  City Councillor Andrea Reimer discussed their Renewable City Strategy and the Greenest City Action Plan. The Councillor reported that  Vancouver has 25,000 green jobs (5% of all jobs), and that surprisingly, these are not  in the transportation and waste recovery sectors, but in local food production, clean buildings and local technology companies. For a summary of the event, read  “BC FED President Irene Lanzinger calls climate change and inequality ‘defining problems of our time’”  in the National Observer (April 6). 

News updates for June 2016: Canada

 REVIEW OF THE NEB AND ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT:   On June 20, the Federal government announced  a “Comprehensive Review of Environmental and Regulatory Processes” , involving six ministries: Fisheries and Oceans; Environment and Climate Change; Transport;  Science and Innovation; Indigenous and Northern Affairs; and Natural Resources. A dedicated website houses consultation documents and allows for public input,  since “Consultation will be at the core of this review”.  An expert panel will review the National Energy Board and submit its findings in early 2017; similarly, another panel will review the Environmental Assessment Agency .  The Navigation Protection Act and the Fisheries Act will be reviewed by parliamentary committees starting in the Fall 2016, with a report due January 2017.   See the CBC  or the National Observer    for summaries.

CANADA AND G7 NATIONS PLEDGE TO END FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES: At the G7 Summit in Japan at the end of May, member nations, including Canada, set  a deadline to end government support for coal, and  oil and gas by 2025. The text of the Final Leaders’ Declaration  doesn’t define “subsidy” and  leaves wiggle room by indicating “inefficient” subsidies (see page 7).  And an article in The Guardian singles out Britain for new North Sea tax breaks, Japan for coal expansion,  and Canada for extending subsidies for natural gas production in the February 2016 budget.