This is a dark moment. Russia has invaded Ukraine in an illegal and unjustified attack that has further activated global military alliances. Here at home, recent convoys have brought violence and hate into communities in Ontario, Alberta, and elsewhere. We’re coming out of a hard COVID winter. Inequality and economic injustice are growing. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just delivered yet another devastating report, warning that the window of opportunity to address the climate emergency is rapidly closing.
One of the immediate by-products of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been a demand by oil and gas CEOs and their representatives in office to clear the way for greater fossil fuel production.
Russia is a major supplier of oil and gas around the world. It is the world’s second largest gas producer (after the United States), producing 18 per cent of the world’s gas output, and the world’s largest gas exporter. In the European Union, a quarter of all oil imports come from Russia, along with almost half of its gas.
It’s no wonder politicians in the West have come to see energy as “a weapon of war for Putin.”
The attack on Ukraine has caused some European countries to reconsider their energy supply. Germany, for example, has just accelerated its commitment to renewable energy, but is also considering new LNG import terminals and delaying the phase-out of nuclear and coal power plants.
In Canada, we’re hearing fossil fuel corporations and their supporting politicians call for new investment in fossil fuel exports from Canada to Europe as a means of interrupting Russia’s power. On Monday, the Conservative Party of Canada put forward a dubious parliamentary motion to support building pipelines to facilitate natural gas exports from Canada to Europe, suggesting that this would help Ukrainians fight off Russian attacks. Conservative MPs dredged up ancient ideas about Canada supplying so-called “ethical oil,” a narrative invented by Big Oil cheerleaders and supported by the Harper government in 2011.
This is the shock doctrine at work: corporations and the politicians that do their bidding are using this crisis to ram through policies and decisions they already had on their wish lists before the conflict escalated.
Pouring gas on this fire isn’t going to make it better. Addressing fossil fuel dependency by building more fossil fuel infrastructure will only invite more conflicts over resource control in the future and make addressing the climate emergency impossible.
A smart long-term approach would be to increase energy democracy here, in Europe, and around the world, by speeding up the shift away from fossil fuel use. As Bill McKibben has pointed out, a rapid program of installing electric heat pumps in Europe, for example, could make a dent in natural gas use in the near future.
We need something to look forward to, and a plan to bring us out of these dark and divided times. A just transition plan can be that hope – a plan to decarbonize our economy, create opportunity for people across the country, and commit to energy democracy here and abroad.
We can take our cues from the hundreds of thousands of young people who took to the streets across the globe, calling for climate justice on March 3rd:
"This is an eye-opening moment for humanity to see that the world is aflame with new and old wars caused by fossil fuels," said Fridays for Future. "We want to call out the era of fossil fuel, capitalism, and imperialism that allows these systemic oppressions. We demand a world where leaders prioritize #PeopleNotProfit."
For months, Council of Canadians members and supporters have been pounding the pavement, talking to neighbours and friends about the need for a just transition, and bringing petitions from constituents to their MPs. Already, 30 MPs have committed to tabling this petition and speaking to it in the House of Commons.
Soon, we’ll gather in more than 40 communities across the country for the March 12th Day of Action for a Just Transition to demonstrate the bold, creative, and growing support for a just transition in Canada. We're co-hosting this day of action with 350.org.