Fossil fuel extraction is the most profitable industry in the history of our species. But that profit has come at a cost: the life support systems of our planet are under threat due to the rapid heating caused by emissions of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gasses). Our municipal government, in line with the scientific consensus that climate change represents an existential threat, declared a climate emergency last year.
Our governments and many others around the world have set targets aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in Paris in 2015, and increasingly more seriously today, in 2020, as country after country legislates “net-zero” emissions goals.
There’s no doubt that these are good steps. But at the same time, many governments around the world, including both our provincial and federal governments, have doubled down on fossil fuel production, investing huge amounts of money in new fossil fuel infrastructure with no plans to wind the industry down.
The science is clear: this doesn’t work. The UN published a report last year called the “The Production Gap.” To summarize it very briefly, currently planned oil and gas production in 2040 is nearly four times a level that could be consistent with a warming of 1.5C.
You might wonder why this matters to us here in B.C. As the global oil market has collapsed and financing for new oil and gas infrastructure has rapidly dwindled thanks both to increasing awareness of the economic risk of climate change and to the divestment movement, the industry has found itself a co-operative partner: Premier John Horgan and the BC NDP.
The current government has increased fossil fuel subsidies by 79% over the previous Liberal government. We’re now donating a billion dollars to this industry annually and exempting them from nearly every tax, including in some cases, ironically enough, the carbon tax. We’re also supplementing those subsidies by socializing the costs of extraction, spending taxpayer dollars on abandoned well cleanup.
Liberal MLA Jordan Sturdy has been our representative for the last two governments. But the Green Party candidate was just 3,200 votes short in 2017. Regardless of who you vote for, we should all be calling on the province to, in the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, stop “using taxpayers’ money...to destroy the world.”