What Minister Oliver didn’t read

Blog - April 12, 2013 - By P.J. Partington

Canada’s Natural Resources minister, Joe Oliver, recently shared his views on climate change and energy with La Presse. He cited the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) projections of global energy demand to justify rapid expansion of energy production in Canada. “We know that the IEA says demand will increase by 36 per cent, particularly in emerging nations. And we have the chance to participate in this growth, but we have to hurry.” (This is my translation of the interview, which was in French.)

The Minister is right: there is an IEA scenario that foresees rapid growth in global energy demand continuing through 2035. This is called the ‘New Policies’ scenario, which envisions governments slowly implementing the plans that they have already announced, but not much more. In short, it’s a scenario that assumes governments do little to reduce emissions and tackle climate change. This would leave the world on track for a catastrophic 3.5˚C of warming and lock in phenomenal risks to our communities, economies and environment.

Thankfully, this isn’t the only possible course the IEA has charted out. They also model a scenario (called the 450 scenario) where governments get serious about climate action, doing their best to keep global warming below the 2˚C threshold. That threshold is what the world’s governments – including Canada – have already committed to, and it gives a 45 per cent chance of limiting global warming to 2˚C. The New Policies scenario that Minister Oliver referenced gives a 94 per cent chance of exceeding this level.

In the scenario where governments get serious about climate change, the IEA forecasts a 10 per cent drop in world oil demand between 2010 and 2035.

Minister Oliver is quoted that he did not read the climate change section of the IEA report or their warning about locking into a path to dangerous climate change. To hopefully inform his next briefing, I’ve summarized the two scenarios below.

IEA scenario table

As Canada looks at the globally evolving market for energy, let’s do so with a goal of avoiding a climate catastrophe, not enabling it.

P.J. Partington
P.J. Partington

P.J. Partington was a senior analyst with the Pembina Institute's federal policy group until 2015.


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