Canada at COP28: Navigating Fed-Prov Challenges and Global Expectations

3 minute read

As the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) kicks off in Dubai, Canada stands at a crossroads, grappling with domestic tensions between the provinces and global expectations for climate action. Over the next few weeks over 70,000 delegates from across the world will come together to negotiate reducing carbon emissions after a record year of fires, floods and rising temperatures.

Domestic Challenges

For Canada, one of the sticking points leading up to the negotiations is the potential clash between the federal government and the Premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Premier Danielle Smith and Premier Scott Moe, both vocal critics of federal climate policies, have confirmed their attendance, raising concerns about internal divisions on the global stage.

Just last week, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith revealed plans to invoke the province’s controversial sovereignty act to prevent the federal government’s clean energy regulations from being fully implemented in Alberta. The resolution, which was tabled last week in the Alberta legislature, instructs governments and provincial entities such as the Alberta Electric System Operator and the Alberta Utilities Commission to ignore the federal regulations when they come into force “to the extent legally permissable.”

Saskatchewan’s Premier Scott Moe will also be in attendance at this year’s conference. Instead of sharing a booth with Smith and the federal government, the Premier and the province have purchased their own pavilion as the provincial energy minister claimed he didn’t trust Ottawa to “share our story.”

Canada’s Plan for Fossil Fuels

A notable aspect of this year’s negotiations is the emphasis on fossil fuel phaseout, with a UN report urging a 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Canada, a top-five global oil producer, faces scrutiny for planned production increases, contrasting with commitments to accelerate the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels. World leaders, including the UN Secretary-General, have called for a tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030, recognizing the pivotal role of a cleaner electricity grid.

Canada’s unveiling of its long-delayed oil and gas sector emissions cap during COP28 adds another layer of complexity. Environment Minister Guilbeault anticipates advocating for the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels, signaling a commitment to cleaner transitions within the fossil fuel industry. The emissions cap, a critical component of Canada’s 2030 emissions reduction plan, is expected to face opposition from Alberta, emphasizing the ongoing challenges in reconciling federal and provincial priorities.

Climate Finance

Climate finance has emerged as a key agenda item following the creation of a historic “loss and damage” fund at the previous COP. Canada, co-chairing efforts to meet the global commitment of $100 billion per year for climate adaptation, is positioned to play a leadership role. The country’s commitment to support the Global South on adaptation is highlighted by Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault emphasizing the need for solidarity in addressing the impacts felt by vulnerable nations.

As the world watches COP28 unfold, Canada finds itself in a tricky positon, navigating domestic challenges while contributing to global efforts to address climate change. The summit’s outcomes will not only shape Canada’s climate policies but also influence the collective global response to the urgent environmental challenges that will shape the world for generations to come.

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