The Effect of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine on Canada’s Climate Policy and Practices

The Effect of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine on Canada’s Climate Policy and Practices

Canada has been a strong voice in an elicited international outcry to this injustice. Our energy policy and practices to date have been limited although the Canadian government announced on February 28, 2022 a ban on Russian oil imports to Canada.

As a negative, Canada expects to receive both a domestic and international push to expand its steady fossil fuel production given a) economic opportunities from rising oil and natural gas pricing and b) desire to help supply (likely natural gas) to other countries to ensure demand reliability (while they step away from Russian oil, gas and coal imports), and transition to cleaner energy and stronger conservation strategies.

Canadian companies planning to fund efforts to achieve net-zero emissions from fossil fuel profits expect the current European disruption and higher prices will delay their efforts. Most oil reserves are found in the western oil sands. Alberta is pushing for expansion as a response. Additional export route expenses given limited ability to reach Asia and Europe being one challenge, revisiting past infrastructure projects shut down given climate considerations is another and investor uncertainty from federal policies discouraging oil development yet another.

On March 23rd, Russia announced a change of currency making roubles the new required source of fuel contract payments from countries seen as challenging the war. This will impact many global relations, including Canada’s, as major banks become resistant to substitute main currencies for Russian assets to buy fuels and grains, likely causing fuel prices to rise even higher.

Our climate policy and practices will be challenged by all the above with the increased emissions impacting our reduction target of 40-45% relative to 2005 by 2030. However, Environment and Climate Canada has just announced a $5 billion federal bond to fund green energy projects.  This may partly be due to expected long-term higher fuel prices in Canada given the European disruption and a result of a recent collaboration of the national Liberal and NDP parties putting more effort to phase-out public financing of fossil fuels and develop just transition plans, primary actions in Canada’s climate change strategy.

Earlier Scorecard examination of indicators including Canada’s consolidated energy use, coal reduction and electricity generation will be influenced by the Ukraine invasion as Canada moves forward its ban on Russian oil imports but also supports other countries with more fossil fuels. The response time needed to influence immediate Ukraine-Russia energy security issues may be challenged by which priority infrastructure expansion actions are most climate change efficient.

The Ukraine invasion has quickly come to command political and policy agendas, trampling earlier emphasis on COVID-19 and climate change. The International Court of Justice, the top court of the UN, recently ordered Russia to “immediately suspend” its military operations in Ukraine, but a binding ruling is not the same as an enforceable one and the war continues.

The implications to the health and well-being of our planet are critical given:

  1. The threat of nuclear war is real given weapons of mass destruction and casualties already exist. On March 23rd, Russia announced it would only use nuclear weapons if its very existence is threatened but their forces were put on high alert last month and NATO sees the threat as real.
  1. A state of long-term economic war with Russia requires new global strategic, military, and geopolitical thinking. Preventing loss of human life is critical. Russia’s seizure of the Ukraine Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility and the Chernobyl site, emphasizes the need for the Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors and 37 facilities to be safe and secure while in the hands of novice soldiers.
  1. Russia’s aggression into the Ukraine is complimented by their greatly expanded oil and gas development in the Arctic now underway with the Vostok oil project including 800 km of pipeline. This could negate efforts to reduce fossil fuels globally, increase defense spending from Canada, more than double maritime traffic with any oil spills easily trapped beneath ice near Canada’s northern shores and generate renewed Arctic boundary issues from those involved.
  1. War easily impacts global food security given supply chain disruptions, higher prices and extreme weather events. The Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe, exports large quantities of wheat and barley. Pressure is already being put on Canadian grain farmers to produce bigger crops to help avoid an expected global food crisis. As farmers already have their crops planned for and a number of fertilizers traditionally are purchased from Russia, Belarus and China, restrictions and uncertainties are expected on this short notice.

As stated in the Conversation, a national Canadian media outlet, new relationships between energy, geopolitical security, and climate policy flowing from the invasion of Ukraine are only beginning to emerge. Their ultimate directions — along with the outcome of the war — remain uncertain, but the implications for Canada, particularly in terms of reconciling the goals of security, energy and climate policy, may be enormous.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Canada Country Manager Diane Szoller


Climate Scorecard depends on support from people like you.

We are a team of researchers providing information on efforts to reduce global emissions. We help make you better informed and able to advocate for improved climate change efforts. Donations of any amount are welcome.