As international climate negotiations come down to the wire at COP28, and with the new draft Global Stocktake text falling severely short of what’s needed, civil society is calling on Canada to step up alongside Peoples and countries on the front lines of the climate crisis, and fight for an agreement rooted in science and justice that protects the possibility of limiting warming to 1.5°C. (Statement issue on December 9th)

At COP28, the need to end the destruction caused by fossil fuels is clear. The litmus test for the success of this COP is whether countries agree to phase out fossil fuels, and that possibility is closer than ever before. More than 100 countries support phaseout – but if it is to happen at all, it must be equitable and funded.

Climate Action Network Canada calls on Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault to step up in these final hours and advocate for high ambition in the COP28 outcome – which can only be achieved with equity. That involves:

Adaptation: The gap between adaptation funding and the reality of what’s needed for communities to prepare for climate impacts is growing. Yet adaptation has been neglected or used as a bargaining chip for most of this COP and risks being further delayed. The Global Goal on Adaptation decision needs to hold developed countries to account for providing public funding for adaptation.

Just Transition Work Programme (JTWP): Progress has been made to include human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples, inclusivity, workers’ protection, and international cooperation. However, in these final hours, it still lacks the commitment to deliver action. The JTWP text needs to speak to implementation, including through guidance for countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions and international cooperation mechanisms.

Financial and technical support: Instead of incentivizing and accelerating climate action,the current international financial system instead currently punishes ambition. A Paris-aligned energy transition will need investments of about USD 4.3 trillion per year.

The phaseout of fossil fuels needs to come with significantly scaled-up international public support for a fast and just clean energy transition, including the financing of universal renewable energy access. For lower income countries whose economies currently deeply depend on fossil fuel extraction, a phase out is unthinkable without such support.

Robust fossil fuel language: The text must refer to the need to phase out fossil fuels, not fossil fuel emissions. It needs to include a signal to decline this decade, and differentiation language that recognizes the need for developed countries to go first and faster.

One major risk: qualifying the fossil fuel phaseout with weasel words like “unabated” would legitimize dangerous distractions like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and leave the door open to further expansion of oil, gas, and coal. 

The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) has stated clearly that abatement must not be used to green-light fossil fuel expansion, but Canada has failed to sign on to these statements and was notably absent from a recent HAC recent press conference. Canada must at a minimum join the HAC’s efforts to secure strong guardrails around abatement language.

Caroline Brouillette, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada: “Minister Guilbeault has said that he’s been tasked to help find language that all countries can agree on – but that cannot mean settling for the lowest common denominator. Countries on the frontlines and the overwhelming majority of parties who support an unqualified fossil fuel phaseout should not be the ones to have to compromise once again. Canada needs to take a strong stance on a full and equitable fossil fuel phaseout. This would not only send a signal to countries from the Global South that they won’t have to pay for the North’s history of fossil-fueled destruction, but also reassure Canadians after a summer of wildfires that devastated communities and ecosystems, disproportionately impacting Indigenous Peoples.” 

André-Yanne Parent, Executive director, Climate Reality Canada: “When we are being rightfully called out on our hypocrisy, as one of the countries that has historically and continues to benefit from a fossil fuels intensive economy, the only acceptable answer will be to act, to deliver, to implement, to do our fair share. If we are at the COP of the truth, let’s face it: we have to be first in line to advocate for a real, equitable, Indigenous and workers-led fossil fuel phase out, with strong guardrails to avoid any loopholes. We need to ensure that adequate climate finance is delivered while ensuring that it does not exacerbate the debt-related challenges of countries and communities who are the most impacted by the devastating impact of climate change. Here and now.”

Ashley Torres, Mères au Front: “As mothers, we know every single decision being taken at COP28 will heavily impact our children and future generations. Time is running out, and Canada has to put our children’s lives above the fossil fuel industry. We don’t want empty promises, nor false solutions, we want a just transition for workers, an equitable fossil fuel phase out and for Canada to do its just part in financing the adaptation and mitigation work that the global south needs.”

Julia Levin, Associate Director, National Climate, Environmental Defence Canada:“COP28 must deliver a fair, fast and fully funded phase out of all fossil fuels – without any dangerous loopholes. For that to happen, Canada and other wealthy countries must recognize the importance of equity and finally take responsibility by leading the way and paying up to ensure developing countries are also able to transition. When this is all over, Canadians will want to know: did the government prioritize the health and safety of our planet, or the short-term profits of a sunsetting industry?”

Alan Andrews, Climate Director, Ecojustice Canada: “This must be the moment when the international community consigns fossil fuels to the history books and commits in international law to a funded, fair, and equitable transition. As one of the world’s biggest polluters and top fossil fuel producers, Canada must lead the way in phasing out fossil fuels and must pay its fair share towards supporting lower income countries so they are able to equitably transition. We will be watching and expecting that Canada plays its role as a good global citizen.”

Dr. Joe Vipond, Past-President, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment: “The natural world is telling us in no uncertain terms that we have damaged her so substantially that the time is for a shift in our sensibilities. To recognize the science that shows that we must stop the combustion of fossil fuels, as soon as conceivably possible. While honouring the plenty that the industry has given our workers and communities, it is now time to move on to a full fair forever fossil fuel phase out. No hedge words. No equivocation. Just safety for our, and our children’s, future.”

Joy Kennedy, Convenor, Canadian Interfaith Fast For the Climate: “If Canada wants to be seen as a credible leader, it must demonstrate moral courage and do the right thing. It must go beyond window dressing and good words and ramp up ambition that delivers the shift the world needs so urgently. Go forward in faith to a sustainable future and don’t delay any longer.”

Andréanne Brazeau, Climate Policy Analyst, Équiterre: “Canada didn’t come to the COP empty-handed, but will it leave with its head held high? It needs to do much more to deliver climate justice in solidarity with the communities most impacted by the polycrisis we’re living through, including young people, workers and indigenous peoples.

“COP28 is the COP of truth, and the truth is that to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis, we must leave fossil fuels where nature put them: in the ground. Canada needs to pull its head out of the oil sands and demand the most comprehensive and ambitious language on fossil fuel phase-out. It must also ensure that the principle of just transition translates into concrete measures, both in international negotiations and domestically. Otherwise, Canada won’t be able to return home with its head held high.”