The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Keynote Speech Globe Forum 2020
February 12, 2020 - Vancouver, B.C.
I acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
It’s an honour to be here and speak to you today. Globe 2020 is an invaluable venue to coordinate on policy, on principles, to discuss commercial opportunity and to manage the transition — really the evolution — of our economy as we combat climate change.
As you know, we are doing our part. Our government has made a commitment that Canada will not just exceed its 2030 Paris Agreement targets, but will reach Net Zero by 2050.
We are joined in that commitment by 77 nations around the world and by a growing number of small, medium and large corporations, including Teck and — just this morning — BP.
For its part, Canada has put a price on pollution. We’re phasing out coal-powered electricity. We’re making generational investments in clean energy, new technologies and green infrastructure.
My department alone is supporting over 900 clean technology projects across the country. We’ve invested nearly $1 billion in Canadian cleantech initiatives, with the total value of these projects more than four times that.
As a government, we have invested more than $3 billion since 2017 in clean energy innovation like carbon capture and storage, wind and solar power, alternative fuels, energy storage, smart grids and energy efficiency.
I’ll spare us all the other technical details that my officials were eager to share, save one: Canada is the fourth-largest oil-producing nation on earth. Fourth-largest: behind the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Russia, ahead of Iran, Iraq and Kuwait.
How we — as a country blessed with a bounty of natural resource wealth, as a country that relies on that bounty, nationally, for an enviable quality of life — how we meet the urgency of combating climate change is the challenge of our age.
We need a plan to reach Net Zero by 2050. And, right now, we don’t have one.
Oil and gas production is an essential component of our national economy in 2020, and it will continue to be an essential component of our national economy in 2025 and 2030.
In fact, in every scenario under the Paris Accord, fossil fuels remain a necessity over the short and medium terms. There’s no getting around it.
Recognizing the importance of oil and gas to our current national economy and to the global economy doesn’t mean that we hide from the reality of climate change. It means we need a plan. A plan that is smart, that is thorough, and a plan that is honest with our fellow citizens, with one another.
First, the plan must be smart: utilizing every ounce of our ingenuity to decarbonize our way of life — and that includes decarbonizing our carbon-extractive industries — through electrification, carbon storage and other clean technologies.
Second, it must be thorough: utilizing every available opportunity to reduce carbon output and the warming of our planet. By modifying our houses and buildings, by reducing energy consumption, by persuading our citizens to make individual choices that will achieve collective results — this radical incrementalism will be more effective than any single, revolutionary technology we keep hoping will one day save us.
And so, third, we must be honest with each other about just how fundamental this transition to a net-zero economy will be and how fast we will be able to sustain such change. Some will say we’re far too slow; others, far too fast. Choices will be made, none of them easy.
And we must do all this now. Time is not on our side. Our planet has rarely been joined in such collective urgency.
We are moving beyond if energy transition will happen to how energy transition will happen.
How will we transition fast enough to mitigate catastrophic climate impacts?
How will we transition effectively enough to ensure continued prosperity for our fellow citizens?
How will we transition thoughtfully enough to ensure that people — energy workers and their families — aren’t left behind? That whole regions of this country aren’t left behind?
These are questions that can’t be answered definitively here and now, at this gathering. But we’re making great strides. And I’ve been listening. And taking notes.
Here are some of the things I’ll take back with me:
Firstly, that Net Zero is not just a plan for our climate. It is a plan for our economic competitiveness. And that plan must be brought about by government (the whole of government) working with ENGOs, indigenous partners and the private sector.
That government must work with both SMEs and big incumbents on decarbonization.
That the regulations we develop must be stringent but streamlined.
That we must focus on those areas where Canada can and should lead — like batteries, thanks to our rich store of critical minerals, and our cutting-edge carbon capture and storage technology.
That we will need the plenty and the ingenuity of our forestry industry to give us the nature-based solutions to offset our diminishing emissions.
That we will need the plenty and the ingenuity of our mining industry to build and to power an electric energy revolution.
That, just as we focus our approach, we must also scale up our ambitions.
And that, as one participant told me quite frankly, talk is cheap, and words flow too easily. If you want to know where value lies, follow the money.
Because markets move toward what they value; indeed, societies move toward what they value. And late last year, in our federal election, a solid majority of Canadians clearly said that they value their environment and the futures of their children.
So, Canada will move aggressively toward those goals — by using all the ingenuity that has made us the world’s tenth-largest economy, by involving every one of our citizens in collective effort and by being honest with them about the choices before us.
And as we are with our citizens, so we must be with other countries, industries and corporate players. Some are not as well-equipped to tackle this transition. With those, patience is warranted; with others, impatience will be necessary. Because we no longer have time to waste.
This assembly of thinkers, doers and achievers, and gatherings like this all over the world, must move now on our common mission: a net-zero economy by 2050; a global economy that continues to grow; and an energy transition that leaves no one behind.
This is happening. This is real. This is our mission. This is the room that can do it. And we are the country that can do it.
Canada will lead. I believe that.
Natural Resources Canada
Office of the Minister of Natural Resources
Follow us on Twitter: @NRCan (http://twitter.com/nrcan)
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