At the beginning of the pandemic, some promising signs of fighting against the climate crisis were observed. The pandemic caused a reduction in the emissions due to the declining trend of transportation both at the local and global levels. This was much less than the required reduction to reach the goals set in the Paris Agreement, but yet an encouraging sign. As time passes, it turns out that we are falling behind schedule. Also, some promised mitigation measures are being missed.
In Poland, near the German border, there is a massive lignite coal mine. With a history that goes back to the 17th century, the mine has sufficient coal to be extracted for the next three decades, but the EU is not content with a renewal of a permit of this mine, for environmental reasons. The sudden closure of this mine, an income resource of several generations, can cause a domino of problems. Thousands of workers and engineers are directly employed by this mine. The mine already experiences difficult days as it is not easy anymore to find coal buyers. An engineer working on this mine for two decades is concerned about the future of his employment. He believes that he has other job opportunities, but local contractors strongly depend on this mine. Without this mine, they hardly hire new employees. Should he and his family move elsewhere? The mayor of the city hosting this mine believes that the mine will get closed eventually, it is just a matter of time. However, a gradual planned closure makes the community ready to lose more than 10,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, which rely on the mine. Planned and sufficient funding is needed from both the government and the EU to make this closure happen smoothly. The EU is not willing to fund this smooth closure as the mine is planning to expand even further. At the same time, a Polish government official stated that coal will phase out finally, but that most likely will happen between 2050-2060.
The situation is not much different here in Canada. The Province of Alberta is investing more than $ 1 billion on a new pipeline. Residents in Fort McMurray depend on this industry. An indigenous resident who owns a contracting business explains that it is their right to harvest. Just like fishing and hunting. Over a decade ago, he and several other indigenous leaders founded an association to promote the rights of indigenous communities. This is a commitment to the community where he was born and grew up. He believes that working in the oil industry is a good fit for them. he believes that before stopping the oil industry everybody should take other actions: using bikes, turning down the heat and grabbing a sweater, etc. Are people ready for that?
Another oil industry worker in Fort McMurray, following a recent massive wildfire and a huge flood, believes that if the oil industry needs to shut down, everything should go green e.g., our laptop, cellphone. Unlike some indigenous communities that protest to stop new pipelines, some communities support a new pipeline which helps them economically grow. Supporting new pipelines is not the current policy of the Federal Government but in-line with the Provincial Government. The Provincial Government funds technologies that help reduce emissions – though the fund is much less than the investment for the new pipeline. The Government of Alberta believes that there will be a demand for a sufficient long-term future that makes new investments in the oil industry justifiable. While Canada is trying to reach net-zero in 2050, the oil might still be exported to other countries. This seems to contradict the fact the climate crisis as a global problem needs globally coordinated solutions.
These are just two examples of many. Nobody is totally right or wrong. The fight against climate change is not straightforward but it is not impossible either. It needs collaboration, coordinated activities, mutual understanding, and commitment of politicians to the targeted goals. What makes this commitment is the engagement of people plus by their continued interest in declining harmful emissions.