Good Sunday Morning – November 26

Good Sunday Morning,

I just spent the last few days in Kitchener closing in on the final push of campaigning for Green candidate Aislinn Clancy. Four days to go until the provincial by-election!

The momentum is building for Aislinn. From standing on corners waving Green signs, to going door to door, to phone calling, we are growing and building support. I wish I could be in Kitchener Centre for Election Day, but thankfully my Green partner in leadership, Jonathan Pedneault, will be there as I start the long process of negotiations at COP28 in Dubai. I was so happy late Friday night to get an email from David Suzuki offering his support for Aislinn.

“I am very pleased to endorse Aislinn Clancy as the next MPP for Kitchener Centre. Mike Morrice Green MP had already proven that a Kitchener Centre Green can move mountains. With Aislinn Clancy doubling Mike Schreiner’s Green caucus in Queens Park, Doug Ford will face some real opposition!” David Suzuki.

It is a very close race between the NDP, who last won the seat, and Greens.

Meanwhile, today finds John and me on Amtrak headed for New York and the United Nations meetings on the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). I am so disappointed that Canada will not even send an official delegation as observers for this, the second meeting of the parties to the TPNW. Our small delegation of Parliamentarians is going to be there in an ongoing attempt to shame Canada into participating, if only as observers. NDP Edmonton MP Heather McPherson, Independent Manitoba Senator Marilou McPhedran, and I will join parliamentarians from around the world in the meeting of Parliamentarians for the TPNW. We expect parliamentarians from around the world – but not from the nations owning nuclear weapons.

We travel by train back to Canada on the 28th and then on November 29, fly from Toronto to Dubai. I am so torn about even going to COP28. I continue to hope against hope that we can make a difference while there is still time. The Canadian delegation has ballooned to 700 people, 150 from the Alberta government and industry alone. There are also, apparently, other large provincial delegations.

Certainly, the host country and presiding chair give room for substantial disquiet. The host country is the UAE and the venue is in Dubai. The president of COP28, as always, based on the host country, will be Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber. This does not bode well for COP28’s success.

Al Jaber is also CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).

All COPs move through a sequence of regions as described by UN. It really does matter who hosts, and it also matters who chairs. All COPs that have been held in Poland, for example – and we have had three – COP 14 in Posnon in 2008, COP 19 in Warsaw in 2013, and COP24 in 2018 in Katowice were sabotaged by the presidency and the pro-coal policies of Poland. Canada was fantastic as host in 2005 and COP11. Stephane Dion’s personal commitment and focus made a difference.

No one thought Copenhagen was a bad choice for COP15 in 2009 – but as it turned out, the shift to the right from the Danish government and the appalling ham-fisted opaque approach from the Danish PM, Rasmussen, who took the gavel from his environment minister Connie Heidegger in mid-stream – was directly responsible for COP15’s tragic failure.

Another element of a COP’s success or failure is the presence of citizen action on the streets. It helped in Glasgow that tens of thousands rallied. No chance of that last year in Sharm al Sheikh nor this year in Dubai.

My friend Courtney Howard, activist doctor who is increasingly acknowledged as a global expert in climate and health, thinks Al Jaber may surprise. She has met with him and thinks he may be able to support the end of oil as UAE is running out of oil and planning for the end of oil. She is also keen on the part of the agenda for COP28 that will focus on climate and health.

Looking at the Agenda, for me the most important feature of COP28 will be the “Global Stocktake.”

There is no enforcement mechanism in Paris, just as climate negotiations have never been allowed to use enforcement that is effective. The ozone treaty in 1987 included very effective enforcement in trade sanctions for any nation producing or using ozone-depleting substances in violation of the Montreal Protocol. Only ten years later, climate negotiators in Kyoto at UNFCCC COP3 in 1997 were not allowed to use trade sanctions in the Kyoto Protocol. (Not allowed by whom? By the trade ministers sitting at every cabinet table with every environment minister.) Appalling and we have not had any enforcement for Kyoto, Copenhagen, or Paris. What we have in Paris for enforcement is essentially group shaming.

This is the first “Global Stocktake” – a public review with maximum transparency of where the world and individual countries are in making progress to holding to 1.5 degrees and as far below 2 degrees C as possible.

The text of the Paris agreement sets out a Global Stocktake every five years. This is the first. We need to ensure it is robust and gets attention. At this point, I think even climate concerned activists have no idea what a Global Stocktake is supposed to accomplish.

My goal at COP28 will be to amplify the Global Stocktake and ensure Canada’s lousy performance is called out. By the next Global Stocktake in 2028 we are surely chasing a disappearing horse and a firmly bolted barn door. That may be the case now, but I hold out hope…

Of course, I also have plans within Global Greens. We convene the Global Greens Parliamentarians Association at each COP – a rare chance to have so many elected Green MPs in one place and also so many Ministers who are Green working in the ten nations with Greens in coalition governments.

What follows are some useful context-setting pieces for the COP:

Essential reads

World facing ‘hellish’ 3C of climate heating, UN warns before Cop28

Richest 1% account for more carbon emissions than poorest 66%, report says

200 celebrities’ aircraft have flown for combined total of 11 years since 2022

 In focus

The climate emergency, at its heart, is very simple. Most existing fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to prevent catastrophic impacts across the globe. But the plans of the fossil fuel industry to find and exploit new fields remain huge. Time is desperately short, with intensifying heatwaves and floods already taking lives and impacting livelihoods.

The UN climate summits are the key forum to drive action and the latest, COP28, starts on 30 November in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Putting a major petrostate in charge of the negotiations seems counterintuitive, to put it politely. Furthermore, the COP28 president, Sultan Al Jaber, is the CEO of the UAE’s state oil company, Adnoc.

Al Jaber’s argument is that it takes someone from the fossil fuel world to change the fossil fuel world. He is also chair of Masdar, a renewable energy company, and the UAE’s climate envoy. He believes he is uniquely positioned to reconcile the many different goals of the 197 countries attending COP28.

I have been examining the UAE’s climate record in the run-up to COP28. Frankly, the omens are not good. First, Adnoc has the largest net-zero-busting expansion plans of any company in the world, according to the latest data. I have also revealed that state-run oil and gas fields in the UAE have been flaring gas virtually daily despite having committed 20 years ago to a policy of zero routine flaring.

The UAE has also failed to report its emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane to the UN for almost a decade. And Adnoc was able to read emails to and from the COP28 office until I raised the issue. As Politico mildly puts it: “Success [at COP28] may depend on the oil-rich nation setting aside its own interests.”

My colleague Fiona Harvey interviewed Al Jaber at length this year. He told her: “Never in history has a COP president confronted the oil industry, let alone the fact that he’s a CEO of an oil company. Not having oil and gas and high-emitting industries on the same table is not the right thing to do. We need this integrated approach.”

One of Al Jaber’s key COP28 initiatives is the Global Decarbonization Alliance, through which he is urging oil and gas companies to sign up to firm climate pledges. The details are yet to be officially revealed, but from what we know so far the GDA appears to fall well short of a pivotal moment when, for example, companies commit to zero new exploration or development, as scientists say is necessary.

Many have long dismissed the fossil fuel industry as a good faith actor in the climate crisis. Christiana Figueres, who as UN climate chief delivered the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015, was not one – until recently. She finally lost patience in July, having watched them splurge their trillion-dollar profits on more exploration and huge shareholder dividends, rather than funding a switch to clean energy.

Cheap renewable energy is simply a superior technology, she said, meaning fossil fuel companies are ultimately doomed – the question is how quickly: “The transition will occur despite them, but it will likely be too late for humanity. The fossil fuel industry will have powered human development in the 20th century and then destroyed it in the 21st.”

“Their moment to decide is now,” Figueres said.

COP28 will be a moment of final judgment for the fossil fuel industry and until it is over, the jury is out. Can the gamble of putting Al Jaber and the UAE in charge produce an unlikely looking climate victory?

“It may or may not work,” said US climate envoy John Kerry recently. “Some might call it an experiment to have an oil-and-gas-¬producing entity host COP. That’s the big question.”

Read more on fossil fuels:

Cop28 host UAE has world’s biggest climate-busting oil plans, data indicates

This week in Parliament, I raised the issue of lack of adequate climate resilient infrastructure in Canada’s North.

Lastly, I participated in two press conferences on Thursday. I condemned the takeover of HSBC Canada by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) alongside affordability, housing, Indigenous rights and climate change advocates. I also held a press conference with Bloc Quebecois colleague, Kristina Michaud, and the Climate Action Network to address the government’s planned emissions cap regulatory framework ahead of COP28 in Dubai.

I will not get home to Vancouver Island until December 15, but I will keep you posted on the progress- or lack thereof – at COP.

Have a great week and keep your fingers crossed for the Ontario Greens and Aislinn Clancy!

Love and thanks,