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Pathways to Phase-out

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We’re living through a pivotal moment — the end of the fossil fuel era.

All around the world, private citizens, businesses and nations are taking steps to reduce their use of fossil fuels in order to avert a global disaster. Taken together, these steps augur a profound change in the way we produce and use energy.

All prominent oil demand scenarios now project that the global demand for oil will peak before 2030 and enter a period of steady decline. While we cannot predict the exact timing of this decline, there can be little doubt that it will take place soon.

We believe that oil and gas production will —and should — decline in Alberta as well. And we’re not the only ones who say so. A range of voices are calling for phase-out.

But what does phase-out mean for us? What is phase-out? Why must Alberta take part in it? What strategies shall we follow in phasing out fossil fuel production while building a prosperous new economy for our province?

There’s a lot to talk about. This post kicks off our exploration of the pathways we can follow to phase-out. My teammates and I will explore these topics in greater depth in the weeks and months ahead.

CLIMATE, ENERGY AND ALBERTA’S FUTURE

Fossil fuels are damaging our home, our country and the entire world.
It’s time to talk about phase-out. It’s time to build a new province — an Alberta beyond fossil fuels.
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What Is Fossil Fuel Phase-out?

The fossil fuel phase-out is the pathway required to eliminate world fossil fuel usage and keep global warming as low as possible. In March, 2022, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research released the report Phaseout Pathways for Fossil Fuel Production. In their analysis, the Paris goal of 1.5°C warming means that reductions must start immediately and they must be significant.

To comply with the carbon budget for a 50:50 chance of not exceeding 1.5°C of warming
requires immediate and deep cuts in the production of all fossil fuels. There are no exceptions;
all nations need to begin a rapid and just phaseout of existing production.

A “just phaseout” is essential. The authors argue that the pace of phase-out for each country will vary and should be dependent on that country’s ability to lead a just transition for the workers and communities affected.

The UN’s equity framing of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ requires those wealthier
nations with economies less dependent on oil and gas revenues lead the way with high rates
of closure and early phase-out dates. Poorer nations have a little leeway, with both slower
rates of closure and slightly later phaseout dates.

Therefore, it recommends that rich countries phase out oil and gas by 2034, while poorer countries are held to 2050.

How Quickly Must We Phase out Fossil Fuels?

Fossil fuel phase-out. These charts show projected coal, oil, and gas production up to the year 2040, compared to the production levels needed to keep global warming within 1.5° or 2° C.
Source: 2021 Report – Production Gap Report productiongap.org/2021report/

The speed at which fossil fuels are decreased depends on the seriousness with which individual countries take the call to action. Currently, there is a huge gap between what countries say they are going to do, what current pledges show they actually will do, and the much bigger decreases needed to keep warming close to 1.5°C.

The UN Environment Programme’s Production Gap Report estimates that, under current trends, 2030 will see 57% more oil and 71% more gas production than required to keep global warming to 1.5°C.

Sharing Is Daring

Help spark the debate. Share a bold, forward position on fossil fuels in Alberta — phase out.

What Are the Tradeoffs in Different Fossil Fuel Phase-out Strategies?

Equity is a major factor in the speed at which countries can reduce their emissions. Rich countries such as Canada can start change now without damaging their economies. Smaller, poorer nations will need support during the transition. This is especially important for poor nations that rely on oil and gas revenues just to maintain their current standard of living.

The full Tyndall reportPDF icon is an excellent resource that covers the scope of change needed. A worldwide, coordinated effort will have the greatest effect because it will share the effort and also share the benefits.

What Are Other Jurisdictions Doing with Respect to Fossil Fuel Phase-out?

Costa Rica and Denmark have launched the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance. Denmark plans to end all production by 2050 and has presently stopped issuing oil and gas exploration licenses. Costa Rica will leave its oil reserves in the ground. Other countries or jurisdictions, including California and Quebec, have joined or pledged their allegiance to the initiative. However, countries with strong fossil fuel production economies have been reluctant to join.

Continued investment in increasing the production of oil and natural gas encourages the building of infrastructure for supply and consumption, locking-in a high carbon pathway beyond 2050 and thus contributing to dangerous climate change, while at the same time increasing the risk of stranded assets.

BOGA Declaration

What Facilities Should Be Phased out First?

Coal is generally considered to be the least efficient fuel with the highest emissions. A majority of countries have created plans to end its use. It is presently produced and consumed to a greater degree in developing countries and may require longer use in these countries where alternative energy sources are not yet available or affordable.

The Tyndall report also states that there can be no new oil and gas development from any country at any income level. Current oil and gas reserves are more than enough to provide world energy needs through the transition period.

What is “Fair Shares Phase-out”?

The report from the CSO Equity Review asserts that wealthy countries like the UK, U.S., Europe and Japan have proposed climate actions that are not fair in proportion to their carbon output. Other countries, like China, India, South Africa and Kenya have made carbon pledges that pledge more action than is their fair share. Fairness is obviously a vital question in phase-out, both within countries and among them.

The report makes five recommendationsPDF icon for equitable phase-out, while still keeping warming at 1.5°C. These include following through with Paris Agreement commitments, ending expansion of fossil fuel expansion and use, and greater international cooperation.

Unless all countries markedly increase their domestic emissions reductions a future within 1.5°C will remain out of reach. For wealthier countries this also means dramatically increasing flows of international financial and technological resources to less wealthy countries. And for less wealthy countries this means emissions reductions in excess of their own fair share that are internationally supported and financed by wealthy countries.

A Fair Share Phase Out: A Civil Society Equity Review of an Equitable Global Phase Out of Fossil Fuels (Nov 2021)

Why Should Canada Be a Leader?

Canada can be a leader capable of doing our fair sharePDF icon. Canada would need to see its domestic emissions cut by 60 per cent and must help international countries reduce their emissions by 80% to reach our targets. Canada is a major producer, but also has a relatively diverse economy that is still wealthy without oil and gas revenue. The federal government has committed to being a leader in:

  • Preparing the workforce to fully participate in the low-carbon economy while minimizing the impacts of labour market transitions.
  • Identifying and supporting inclusive economic opportunities  for workers in their communities.
  • Putting workers and their communities front and centre in discussions that affect their livelihoods.

However, currently there are no solid plans for achieving these goals. It is worth acknowledging that if countries like Canada don’t lead on transitioning away from fossil fuels and claim that it is too difficult, there will be no hope for smaller, poorer and less-equipped countries to make their own transitions.

Have Your Say

Like I said, there’s a lot to talk about — for all of us.

Why don’t you weigh in as well? What do you think about phase-out? Scroll down and share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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