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Concern for Human Rights Shouldn’t End Where Energy Production Begins

Cody Battershill

Federal Green Party co-leader Jonathan Pedneault has probably forgotten more than I’ll ever know about the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region. For a leader still just in his early 30s, you can sense his passion for human rights and the battle against humanitarian disaster.

That’s because, while still in high school in Quebec, Pedneault, then 17, made a decision that would change his life. He decided he’d go to Darfur, learn about the conflict there – and help.

Anyone would have to admire the level of commitment required for such a young person to launch himself on this precarious path. It’s inspiring.

So, when we recently met on a radio program to talk about climate action and emissions reductions, I was surprised to learn that Pedneault’s passionate interest in human rights seemed to stop at the point where energy production was concerned.

Sure, Canada has an abundance of energy resources, including large reserves of oil and natural gas, vast amounts of uranium and biofuels, and significant potential for more hydro and wind – all of which, I explained, serve to lower emissions and to provide the needed energy to power a modern society here and abroad.

Further, coal-to-gas switching has resulted in significant emissions reductions around the world.

But Canada also has strong institutions that provide the skilled workforce to drive the sector forward, the continually-evolving technological innovations that ensure the lowest possible environmental impacts and best uses of our natural resources, and governing bodies that oversee the sector and ensure high standards of environmental stewardship and human health and safety.

In short, we’re blessed with an abundance of natural resources, a wealth of technical knowledge and an exceptional record on environmental stewardship and human rights.
How exceptional? Canada ranks high among the world’s top 20 oil producing nations on environment, social and governance (ESG) criteria, including second in governance (Worldwide Governance Indicators), second in social progress (Social Progress Index) and fourth in environment (Environmental Performance Index).

On the other hand, blocking Canadian Liquified Natural Gas and forfeiting our market position while less reputable regimes fill the global supply gap, hurts the global climate as well as our own energy security and the resilience of Canadian workers, families and communities – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Meanwhile, other regimes, some far less sustainable than ours, are only too happy to step up.

My assessment of Pedneault is that he seems smart and good on his feet. But there is definitely a knowledge gap on the importance of Canadian energy and our record of global environmental and human rights leadership.

That could change with time. And we’d be very happy to help bring him up to speed on the facts.

Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder / spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer-initiated group that supports Canadian energy development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it.