Methane emissions are underrated at one third of global warming gases, largely because fossil fuel sector methane emissions are underestimated by 70 percent. Current data indicates the energy sector accounts for 40 percent of man-made methane. Consequently, the COP26 non-binding pledges of over 100 nations for a 30 percent reduction by 2030 are not only dreadfully inadequate, but also, without standardized measuring, reporting and verification standards, oil and gas industry methane greenwashing is rampant. The draft European Union (EU) plan to reduce methane emissions up to 80 percent by 2030 and establish transparent extraterritorial norms will be complimented by an accelerated transition to clean energy independence to reduce reliance on Russia. As well, existing technologies can capture fossil fuel methane for selling it for a net profit, meaning methane zero-tolerance is possible. By contrast, Canada’s methane ambitions procrastinate and are fuzzy.
Cargo and cruise ships represent 2.6 percent of global emissions and could reach 17 percent by 2050. Nearly all these ships use cheap dirty heavy oil with high sulphur content. International regulations aren’t helpful as they are lax and difficult to enforce. Fortunately, Maersk, the largest container shipping company in the world, has created the conditions for an industry-wide sectoral revolution by setting 2040 as a target to achieve net-zero emissions, requiring all new vessel acquisitions be carbon-neutral and has already ordered 12 green methanol powered ships. Concurrently, many new technological solutions are under development including ones associated with electric, wind and biofuel energy sources. Stringent territorial waters and docking standards, Maersk technological catalysts, financing of emerging remedies, could advance clean technologies quickly. Finally, open-loop scrubbers are widely used as a band-aid to remove sulphur from the exhausts to transfer the pollutants into the sea.
BlackRock, the world’s largest investment firm, has indicated that those that don’t tackle climate change will lose money in 5 years. Some financial institutions have made multi-trillion commitments from now to 2030 to invest in the green economy while still focusing the majority of investments in fossil fuels. Canadian banks are among the global top fossil fuel investors.
Justin Trudeau announced another of his Liberal government’s green plans in December. I have lost track of how many green plans we have had, but not a single one has met its targets. With the prime minister set to officially meet with the new U.S. president Tuesday, the Liberals’ environmental agenda looks embarrassingly unambitious by comparison.
Raising the price of carbon is one of the pillars of the government’s latest plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But there are no magic bullets and piecemeal measures don’t work.
In other regions that have carbon pricing mechanisms, such as the European Union and China (with its pilot schemes), climate change abatement plans consist of many complementary measures, including stringent legislation.
On a global scale, less than 10 percent of plastics are recycled. Plastics are ubiquitous, meaning regulating its use is especially complex. While Canada has only banned a half dozen of single-use plastics, the European Union and China are engaged in a holistic multi-year incremental approach to manage plastic production, distribution, consumption, recycling, disposal and substitution. Accordingly, the actions of these latter jurisdictions will influence global innovation and standards. By comparison, Canada’s plastic initiatives are symbolic greenwashing.
As of last year, close to one thousand institutions with three per cent of global savings under management have engaged in some form of divestment from fossil fuels.
In June 2019, Norway’s parliament unanimously voted in favour of directing its $1.06 trillion Government Pension Global Fund (GPGF), the Norges Bank, to divest more than $13 billion from fossil fuels while dedicating more investments to clean technologies.
The caveat is that this will apply only to companies that are exclusively in the business of upstream oil and gas production and some coal sector investments. The GPGF is Norway’s sovereign fund derived from oil industry revenues to assure Norway has a steady source of revenues in the post-oil world.
Shell has expressed concern that the growing fossil fuel divestment movement could impact on the company’s performance.