Letter to Minister Sohi: End Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The oil and gas sector is the largest single contributor to Canada’s GHG emissions, and by extension, the main Canadian driver of climate change. At the G20 summit in 2009, Canada pledged to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term. This commitment was reiterated in the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals, the 2015 Liberal election platform, and the 2016 North American Leaders’ Summit. While some changes have been made, fossil fuel companies in Canada continue to receive approximately $1.6 billion in federal subsidies every year.

Responsibility for phasing out subsidies to the fossil fuel sector is shared by Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna, and Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, however it is clear that they require broader cabinet support for action. CPJ wrote to Amarjeet Sohi, welcoming him as Minister of Natural Resources and urging him to support immediate action to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.


August 14, 2018

Dear Minister Sohi,
I am writing on behalf of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister of Natural Resources.
As you enter this important role, we urge you to support immediate action to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. 
CPJ is a national organization of members inspired by faith to act for justice in Canadian public policy. Our research, policy analysis, education, and advocacy work are grounded in an understanding of the sacredness of creation and the dignity of all people.
At CPJ, we celebrated Canada’s ratification of the Paris Agreement, the introduction of a federal carbon pricing mechanism, and the historic Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. From the beginning, however, we have had concerns that Canada’s climate policy lacks the ambition necessary to meet the Paris temperature goals.
Not only has your government failed to follow-through on promises to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies, but additional actions have been taken that undermine climate commitments by boosting the oil and gas sector. I refer specifically to the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, and the softening of carbon pricing measures for Canada’s largest industrial greenhouse gas [GHG] emitters.
Climate change is causing serious human and environmental impacts in Canada and internationally. We appreciate your government’s commitment to climate action, but as the global crisis intensifies, it is imperative that measures to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions be augmented. Ambitious action can no longer be delayed.
For the last two years, as a response to these concerns, we have led Give it up for the Earth!, a Lenten faith-in-action campaign, aimed at reducing GHG emissions and improving Canadian climate policy.
Building on significant engagement in 2017, this year’s campaign saw individuals and families in 150 faith communities across Canada reduce their emissions (by cutting meat consumption or divesting from fossil fuels, for example). In mid-July, we led a small delegation of supporters to personally deliver several bins of postcards to Minister McKenna. Over 2,500 Canadians were asking: will your government Give it up for the Earth! by ending all subsidies to the fossil fuel sector and investing strategically in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and skills development.
It is time to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. “[I]nefficient subsidies to the fossil fuel sector encourage wasteful consumption, undermine efforts to address climate change, and discourage investment in clean energy sources,” says Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner, Julie Gelfand.
We must also reconsider Canada’s energy future. As I outline in CPJ’s summer 2018 issue of the Catalyst, pipelines are not the best way forward. We know that you are a skilled negotiator and consensus-builder, and trust that you will appreciate the balanced perspective put forward in, “Invest in a Just Transition, Not Pipelines.”
A favourable response to our Give it up for the Earth! call to action would require no more than follow-through on long-standing commitments to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term, as articulated at the G20 summit in 2009 and reiterated in the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals, the 2015 Liberal election platform, and the 2016 North American Leaders’ Summit.
When will your government put a plan in action to end all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry? What will be done in the coming months – and what can we expect to see in Budget 2019?
Please keep the well-being of people and the planet top of mind as you and your government make key decisions about Canadian climate and energy policy.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your response.
Karri Munn-Venn
Senior Policy Analyst
cc Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
encl   Citizens for Public Justice, the Catalyst, summer 2018 (volume 41, number 2).


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