Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the memory of Lytton, B.C., on Monday as he called for global action in the fight against climate change and formally committed to a cap on emissions produced by Canada’s oil and gas sector.
The prime minister was speaking at the 26th meeting of the Council of Parties to the UN climate convention, known as COP26, where more than 120 world leaders have gathered for two days to assess global efforts to address what many see as an existential problem.
It was in that context that Trudeau referenced the record-setting temperatures that set the stage for the devastating wildfire that swept through the village of Lytton in June, destroying much of the community.
“What happened in Lytton can and has and will happen anywhere,” Trudeau told the assembled leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “How many more signs do we need? This is our time to step up — and step up together.”
Trudeau went on to formally launch his government’s latest effort to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by committing to a cap on emissions from the country’s oil and gas sector.
Such a cap had been promised in the Liberals’ recent election platform, with plans to force emissions down until they hit net zero in 2050. A lack of regulations for the sector has long been a sore spot between environmental groups and Ottawa.
“We’ll cap oil and gas sector emissions today and ensure they decrease tomorrow at a pace and scale needed to reach net zero by 2050,” Trudeau told the leaders.
“That’s no small task for a major oil and gas producing country. It’s a big step that’s absolutely necessary.”
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault was expected to send a letter to the government’s new net-zero advisory body to start the process later on Monday.
Trudeau arrived at COP from the G20 leaders’ summit in Rome, where leaders agreed that global warming had to be limited to 1.5 C by the end of this century. However, they failed to agree on specific actions to make that happen.
While Trudeau promised to cap oil and gas sector emissions, Canada will not be increasing its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions further than what was announced earlier this year.
In July, Canada formally submitted its new target, which aims to have 40 to 45 per cent fewer emissions than in 2005 by 2030, to the UN. The previous target was a 30 per cent reduction in emissions from 2005 by 2030.
The prime minister said Sunday that while there is always a lot of attention on the setting of targets, not enough attention goes to meeting them. He said Canada is now focused on implementing the policies needed to meet its existing targets.
To that end, he used his address on Monday to list the actions his government has taken to make good on its promises, including putting a price on carbon.
He also noted that Canada has committed $5.3 billion to help low and middle-income nations with their emissions-reduction and mitigation efforts, with up to $1 billion of that funding will be dedicated to helping countries transition away from coal.