Climate action and civil society organizations held a demonstration today in Ottawa, calling on the Canadian government to move forward quickly with ending all support to the fossil fuel industry, including public subsidies – on behalf of the concerned people across Canada who have now sent more than 138,000 letters to the federal government demanding that no more taxpayer money be used to prop up the oil and gas sector.
The letters have been sent over the last few months by supporters of Amnesty International Canada, Environmental Defence, Council of Canadians, Stand.earth, the David Suzuki Foundation, 350 Canada, and Oil Change International. Today, representatives of those organizations alongside Climate Action Network Canada demonstrated on Parliament Hill dressed as barrels of oil, holding a giant mock cheque from the Department of Finance.
Framework for ending Canadian fossil fuel subsidies announced
The stunt follows Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)’s release on Monday of a framework for ending inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. The framework marks a strong step forward, but risks leaving the door open for subsidies for dangerous distractions such as carbon capture and storage and fossil-based hydrogen, as well as fossil gas. Crucially, it doesn’t cover financing provided by Crown corporations such as Export Development Canada (EDC). This public financing comprises the bulk of Canada’s financial support to the fossil fuel industry: EDC has provided more than $50 billion to oil and gas companies since 2019. While the federal government has promised an implementation plan by fall 2024 to phase out public financing of the fossil fuel sector, this sluggish timeline is out of sync with the urgency of the climate crisis. Ottawa must release a plan by the end of the year, and eliminate public financing for fossil fuels in 2024.
In 2022, the federal government gave more than $20 billion in subsidies and financial support to fossil fuel companies. Canada’s five biggest oil and gas companies posted profits of more than $38 billion in the same year, while Canadians continue to struggle with the skyrocketing cost of living. Out of every dollar of inflation over the last two years, 25 cents has gone to profits in the oil, gas, and mining industries.
Historic wildfire season linked to climate change
Meanwhile, wildfires have blazed across the country all summer, burning 11 million hectares of land and forcing more than 155,000 people from their homes – and their increased frequency and severity is directly linked to fossil fuel companies. The economic cost of wildfires and other climate impacts on Canada’s economy is expected to reach $25 billion by 2025.
The Government of Canada must quickly take the final step and end all fossil financing – without any loopholes.
“Canadians are paying the price for oil and gas executives’ profits, multiple times over,” said Pratishtha Singh, Senior International Climate Policy Analyst at Climate Action Network Canada. “It’s time for our government to fully end its support for an industry that is fuelling both the climate and cost of living crises, that tramples over Indigenous rights and spends its profits on greenwashing campaigns rather than cleaning up its act. We must invest in real solutions – not in dangerous distractions that let big polluters get away with their destructive practices.”
Julia Levin, Associate Director, National Climate at Environmental Defence, said: “While the new rules announced Monday are a welcome step in the right direction, they do not shut the door on all of the public money being provided to oil and gas companies. Across Canada, people are struggling and dying from the impacts of climate disasters as well as a cost of living crisis sparked by our dependence on fossil fuels. Government spending – in all its forms – must move us towards a truly renewable energy system – one that will deliver lower bills, cleaner air and more energy security. The Government of Canada must quickly take the final step and end all fossil financing – without any loopholes.”
Kassandra Churcher, Executive Director, Amnesty International Canada, said: “Ottawa’s plan for eliminating inefficient fossil fuel subsidies is a step in the right direction but it does not go far enough in responding to the terrifying crisis we face. Amnesty International continues to document devastating human rights impacts of extreme heat, wildfires, floods and other climate change-induced catastrophes, experienced disproportionately by the most marginalized. We call on Canada to end all support for fossil fuels and ensure a just transition to renewable energy sources compatible with the protection of human rights. This could not be more urgent for the lives and future of millions of people.”
Lisa Gue, National Policy Manager, David Suzuki Foundation, said: “Taxpayer handouts to the fossil fuel industry have helped fuel the climate crisis and delayed the transition to renewable energy. Turning off the federal funding tap for these polluting companies is the right thing to do. Building on the recent subsidies announcement, we call on the government to phase out public financing for fossil fuel companies by the end of the year. Whether through subsidies or public financing, the public purse should not be used to line the pockets of fossil fuel companies.”
Amara Possian, Canada Team Lead, 350.org, said: “Tens of thousands of Canadians have joined this campaign because ending fossil fuel subsidies is basic common sense. We can’t solve the climate crisis while propping up the same companies that are heating up the planet. It’s outrageous, but sadly predictable, that the Liberal government’s new policy still leaves room for big oil to suck up billions of taxpayer dollars. We must urgently invest in proven climate solutions like solar and wind energy, instead of squandering public resources on risky carbon capture schemes that perpetuate fossil fuel production.”
Claire O’Manique, Public Finance Analyst at Oil Change International, said: “Any step to stop funding fossils is welcome and urgently needed. But Canada cannot claim to be the first G20 country to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies without also ending support for domestic public finance, CCS, and fossil hydrogen. It is disappointing to only mention drafting a plan to end public domestic fossil fuel finance by the end of 2024, rather than taking concrete steps now to end domestic public finance for fossil fuels. This will leave over CAD 13 billion a year in government support flowing to climate-wrecking oil and gas projects for the foreseeable future. It is not too late to close these gaps. Canada must demonstrate global leadership by committing to end its domestic fossil fuel finance by 2024 at the latest.”
Header photo: Courtesy of the Climate Justice Network