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U.N. report on climate change 'sobering,' says Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault listens to his introduction before delivering a speech on an emissions reduction plan, at the Canadian Club in Toronto on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says a new report from the United Nations' climate agency shows the oil and gas sector "cannot do business as usual." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

OTTAWA — Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says a new report from the United Nations' climate agency shows the oil and gas sector "cannot do business as usual" even as the government is still considering approving a massive new offshore oil production project.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urges more aggressive cuts to greenhouse-gas emissions to limit global warming to the 1.5 C targeted in the 2015 Paris Accord.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says despite political leaders promising to take climate change seriously, their policies are on track to warm the planet more than twice that by the end of the century.

The report points to the ongoing investment in fossil fuels as a major problem.

Canada revealed last week a new plan to hit its emissions-reductions target for 2030, projecting its oil and gas industry must slash its carbon-related pollution by 42 per cent from current levels. The transportation sector needs to cut emissions by 23 per cent.

Guilbeault calls the U.N. report "sobering," and says his government knows it must move quickly to implement new policies to cut emissions.

"We don't have the luxury of taking four, five or six years to develop new regulations to tackle climate change," he said Monday.

"That's one thing I've told my colleagues, that we now have to learn to do this much faster."

Canada's emissions target — now enshrined in legislation — is to cut emissions to no more than 60 per cent of what they were in 2005 within the next eight years. Critical to that is the Liberal's election promise to cap emissions from oil and gas production and ramp them down over time.

The Sierra Club Canada Foundation on Monday said the IPCC report is clear that relying on fossil fuels is hurting the world's fight against climate change and the government has to reject the proposal.

It urged the Liberals to reject the proposed Bay du Nord oil project off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, which could produce up to 200,000 barrels of oil a day.

Guilbeault said the decision on Bay du Nord would be coming by April 13.

"Any money invested into developing large scale projects, like Bay du Nord, is money we will not see returned when these projects are abandoned," Sierra Club Canada Foundation organizer Heather Elliott said in a statement. 

 "We need immediate and decisive change, or we will be beyond the point of no return."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press

The Canadian Press

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