If nothing else, the G7 countries’ recent agreement to end fossil fuel use for energy by 2100 signals a shift in the way we talk and think about global warming. Previous agreements were about reducing carbon emissions from burning coal, oil and gas. This takes matters a step further by envisioning a fossil fuel–free future.
There are reasons for cynicism: the long time frame means none of the politicians involved in the commitment will even be alive, let alone held accountable, for meeting the target in 2100;Canada and Japan watered down Germany’s proposal to end fossil fuel energy by 2050; and many governments, including Canada’s, haven’t met even their current weak commitments. But in calling for deep emissions cuts by 2050 and an end to fossil fuel energy by 2100—“decarbonization”—the non-binding pledge at least shows governments recognize the need to confront climate change.
Canada could show it takes the commitment seriously by heeding the advice of 100 scientists (including 12 Royal Society of Canada fellows, 22 U.S. National Academy of Sciences members, five Order of Canada recipients and a Nobel Prize winner, from a range of disciplines) whoreleased a statement with 10 reasons why “No new oil sands or related infrastructure projects should proceed unless consistent with an implemented plan to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, safeguard biodiversity, protect human health and respect treaty rights.”
According to Simon Fraser University energy economist and statement co-author Mark Jaccard, “Leading independent researchers show that significant expansion of the oil sands and similar unconventional oil sources is inconsistent with efforts to avoid potentially dangerous climate change.”
Another author, Northern Arizona University ecologist Tom Sisk, said it’s not just about climate: “Oil sands development is industrializing and degrading some of the wildest regions of the planet, contaminating its rivers, and transforming a landscape that stores huge amounts of carbon into one that releases it.”
The reasons for a moratorium include: oil sands expansion and investment are incompatible with climate protection and are slowing the shift to clean energy; monitoring and enforcement are inadequate; landscape is being contaminated and reclamation is insufficient; First Nations treaties are being violated; affordable alternatives are available; cumulative impacts have been ignored; and Canadians are demanding solutions.