Canada on track to meet, exceed methane emission reduction goal by 2030, Trudeau tells UN
Published Wednesday, September 20, 2023 7:13AM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, September 20, 2023 3:02PM EDT
WASHINGTON -- Canada is on track to hit and even surpass targets for reducing oilpatch methane emissions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday, as the UN sought to hold leaders to account for their climate commitments.
Draft regulations that are due before the end of the year will allow Canada to meet or even exceed its goal of slashing methane from the oil and gas sector by 75 per cent from 2012 levels by 2030.
Trudeau was speaking at the Climate Ambition Summit, a gathering of some 30 countries on the margins of the UN General Assembly aimed at calling them to account for their actions, or lack thereof.
The UN moderator introduced the prime minister with a pointed reminder that Canada "was one the largest expanders" of fossil fuel production last year, a detail Trudeau acknowledged only obliquely -- and with a hint of domestic politics thrown in.
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"In 2015, Canada -- a major oil and gas supplier -- was far behind on climate action," he acknowledged, without saying out loud that 2015 was the year his Liberals took office.
"With hard work, we've been able to change that. Canada's emissions are, in fact, trending down."
A hint of partisanship also showed up when Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault emerged from the towering UN headquarters standing sentry along the East River to backstop his boss.
Canada was only invited to participate in the UN summit because of the effort it has made to date in taking its climate obligations seriously, Guilbeault said.
"I think if you were to ask the question, 'Would Canada have been invited here 10 years ago under a Stephen Harper government,' the answer is obviously no," he said.
"Pierre Poilievre doesn't believe -- and the Conservative Party of Canada doesn't believe -- that climate change is an issue that's worth paying any attention to."
The progress on methane, Guilbeault said, is especially noteworthy.
"It's a very powerful greenhouse gas, but if collectively we can work to reduce methane emission, we can shave off almost 1 C of temperature increase in the coming decades. This is massive."
Guilbeault demurred, however, on whether Canada's message to the UN is that it's possible to be both a major oil and gas producer as well as a leader on reducing emissions.
"We are moving into a carbon-constrained world," he said.
"We will need less fossil fuels than we need now, and ... we need to ensure that this energy transition is done in a way that is just and that is fair for workers."
Trudeau also told the summit that Canada would allocate $700 million more to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust, a fund to help developing countries deal with climate change.
"If we walk away from this fight, as some would have us do, the future will not be bright," he said. "But if we do keep taking action, things will get better. Our shared future will be stronger."
Later Wednesday, Trudeau was scheduled to take in a UN Security Council debate on the way forward in Ukraine, where President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to speak.
He'll also be taking part in high-level meetings on creating new finance models to help the developing world find sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.
"The time has come for all of us to step up and understand: the future is expecting us all to meet this moment," he said Tuesday at a meeting on the UN's sustainable development goals.
Those goals, established in 2015 as the UN's road map for a safe, equitable and peaceful world, include lofty ambitions like eliminating poverty and hunger, guaranteeing clean water and ending inequality.
But progress has largely stalled, hampered by political intransigence, sluggish post-pandemic economies and the escalating problem of conflict in both Ukraine and the developing world.
Trudeau gently urged leaders to get serious about achieving those targets.
"They're not some wish list generated by academics of global nice-to-haves. They are the building blocks of success in each and every one of our countries and each and every one of our communities," he said.
"The truth is, they will get harder and more expensive the longer we drag our heels."
The theme for this year's assembly is "Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity" -- two commodities that even Guterres admitted Tuesday are lately hard to come by.
"Our world is becoming unhinged," Guterres said during his opening address. "Geopolitical tensions are rising. Global challenges are mounting. And we seem incapable of coming together to respond."
Emergencies, on the other hand, are plentiful.
The climate crisis grew ever more real in 2023, with a record-setting wildfire season in Canada, catastrophic flooding in Libya and a record 23 separate billion-dollar weather disasters in the U.S. in just the first eight months.
Russia's war in Ukraine grinds on, the global angst augmented by last week's ominous meeting in Vladivostok between President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
And the uneasy truce of the UN's own Black Sea grain deal has collapsed, all but cutting off the developing world from one of the planet's most vital sources of food, cooking oil and fertilizer.
"When hatred is weaponized against one nation, it never stops there," Zelenskyy told delegates, one of whom happened to be Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN.
"The goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our land, our people, our lives, our resources into weapons against you -- against the international rules-based order."
He said tens of thousands of Ukrainian children have been repatriated by Russia since the invasion began and are being taught to "hate Ukraine," an indoctrination he described as "genocide."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2023.