In praise of the emerging debate around energy

Tzeporah Berman on what to expect for climate change action in 2015.
By: /
January 9, 2015

In 2015 Canadians will go to the polls and one of the defining issues will be our energy future.

Despite the Harper Conservatives’ best efforts to bury a conversation on climate change in Canada, 2015 will be the year that we face the challenge of a growing oil and gas sector at a moment in history when the majority of the world’s scientists are being joined by economists and even financial institutions calling for a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels.

The single reason that Canada will not meet our climate targets is the growth of emissions from the oilsands and our Federal government’s refusal to address this issue is being met with fierce opposition to pipeline expansion across the country and in the United States. This issue will be at the forefront of the next election and will define Canada’s relationships with First Nations communities and our neighbours. It will define our international reputation and indeed our economic strategy for years to come.

In 2015, the questions of how our country addresses the challenge of climate change, how much and how fast the oilsands should be developed and who benefits from this development, will be at the forefront of debate in the country, whether the Harper Conservatives want it to be or not.

Our Federal government has created a broad, diverse, national conversation on the very issue that they were trying to avoid. And they did so through a number of different means: by delaying oil and gas regulations for seven years (and now calling the regulations that they promised ‘crazy’); continuing to oppose a price on carbon (and referring to it as ‘job-killing tax’ despite all contrary evidence from the British Columbian experience); cutting climate research; muzzling Federal scientists; gutting environmental laws in order to facilitate oil and gas expansion; attacking environmental charities; and ridiculing citizens concerned about oilsands expansion and pipelines and repeatedly trying to shove new pipelines down the throats of unwilling provinces, First Nations and local communities.

It is said that the proposed pipelines are ‘nation building.’ That may be true as the pipeline fiasco is indeed waking up a broad and diverse cross section of Canada to a critical national conversation on how to create an economy, and indeed a country that thrives and leads in the climate era, a country that we can proud of on the international stage at this critical moment in history.

New reports show that the clean tech sector is already employing more people in Canada than the oil and gas sector and that Canada has tremendous potential for clean, renewable energy and creating a stronger, more diverse economy that is not as vulnerable to fluctuations in the price of oil. For too long, ‘power’ in Canada (in every sense of the word) has been held in the hands of too few.

Towards the end of last year these issues began to crack open and a new debate is emerging that has the potential to address not only climate change but simultaneously address who produces and holds power in this country.

Also in the series

The number of questions guiding our coverage this year is far larger than we were able to explore in the features below. For instance, will Canada live up to its recent promise to help resettle 10,000 new Syrian refugees? What will result from Palestine’s membership into the International Criminal Court? 


More peace on earth than ever before?

Scott Gilmore on what to expect for violence in 2015.

A soft or crash landing for Canada?

Madelaine Drohan on what to expect from finance in 2015.

Setting new terms of reference for the global economy

John McArthur on what to expect for development in 2015.

An emergent zone of ambiguous rules and actors

Saskia Sassen on what to expect for global order in 2015.