China is several years ahead of other developed countries on the migration to a green economy, in clean technology production capacity, massive market penetration and green investments. China already has an extraordinary global green export potential. China leads in renewables, electric vehicles and battery production, incrementally regulating plastic solutions, high-speed rail, private clean tech investment, government environmental support and green bonds. China’s concurrent climate actions are gamechangers destined to have huge global competition impacts on energy, economic, transportation, industrial and other paradigms, perhaps more so than the climate crisis. But there are simultaneous contradictions. China is the world’s largest liquified natural gas importer, once again ramping up coal production and certainly not a leader on human rights.
Putin’s war has created an electroshock for Europe because it depends on fossil fuel imports for 60% of its energy, one-third of which comes from Russia. Organically evolving European Union (EU) plans target 2027 for a massive and rapid transition to a green economy and energy independence. Renewables, electric vehicles, clean technologies and energy efficiency will all play major roles in the creation of fast-forward paradigms for global emulation. For the immediate, by the end of 2022, EU plans entail cutting Russia gas imports by two-thirds, substitution fuel sources plus ramping up renewables and energy efficiency. These EU plans will be devastating for the Russian economy. Russia needs European oil and gas revenues more than Europe needs these fuels.
Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) was made public March 29, 2022. Since the country’s oil and gas sector with methane included, plus transportation components, together, represent about half of Canadian emissions, one would have thought these sectors would be objects of strong climate initiatives. Yet, for these sectors, the ERP appears to be the product of accommodation of industry lobbies. The action items stupendously lack integrity and are weak. As such, the ERP like all previous government emission reduction targets, will not achieve its goals.
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 zeros in on methane accountability norms and establishes transparent extraterritorial requirements to cover imports. The U.S. too, with the backing of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, now has the foundation for vigorous proposal to update its regulations and investments in methane reduction. Sadly, Canada’s methane ambitions procrastinate and are fuzzy. Lastly, stringent government actions would be less critical if the oil and gas industry applied existing technologies to capture fossil fuel methane and sell it for a net profit.
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.
A short list of just 25 fossil fuel producers are responsible for half of all carbon emissions since 1988, according to the The Carbon Majors Report. The report indicates that if fossil fuel extraction continues the same trend over the next 28 years, global average temperatures would rise approximately 4°C by the end of the century.
Diversification may be a matter of survival for fossil fuel companies in the event there is a global acceleration towards complying with the Paris Agreement. That would mean leaving 60 to 80 per cent of reserves in the ground. What are presently assets could turn into liabilities to the tune of $674 billion (USD) now and $6 trillion by 2028.
While getting Big Oil to pivot to clean energy may seem far-fetched, some fossil fuel giants are starting to get serious about reducing their carbon footprint and diversifying towards clean technologies. Shell is one example of the widening fault lines among Big Oil, and a very notable one.