Canada’s clean hydrogen could help wean Europe off Russian oil, say Liberal G7 ministers

Guilbeault said ‘in the short term’ Canada may be able to supply European countries with liquefied natural gas as an alternative to energy from Russia

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OTTAWA — Canada could ship clean hydrogen to Europe in the future to help wean itself off its dependence on Russian oil and gas, federal ministers say.

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In meetings with their G7 counterparts in Berlin this week, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Canada is investing in the development of clean hydrogen, which could help the Europe to reduce its energy dependence on Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Canada also played a key role in persuading the G7 – which includes the United States – to phase out international funding for fossil fuel projects by the end of the year, the federal government said. Canada made a commitment to do so at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow last year.

The pledge made at the G7 meeting was part of an agreed package of measures to tackle climate change, including global action to phase out coal-fired power plants.

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Wilkinson and Guilbeault also pushed for a G7 “hydrogen action pact,” focused on the role hydrogen can play as a clean energy source for the future.

The government supports the development of clean hydrogen, a low-carbon fuel, including in Atlantic Canada, which is closer to Europe than Alberta and Saskatchewan, making it easier to transport.

“Canada remains committed to leading global energy markets and security to ensure the support of the international community,” Wilkinson said in a statement.

  1. Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, left, and John Kerry, the US President's special climate envoy, talk to other delegates at a meeting of G7 energy ministers in Berlin, in Germany, May 26, 2022.

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European countries, including Germany, have made it clear that they want to be less dependent on Russian oil and gas.

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Earlier this month, EU President Ursula von der Leyen announced a plan to phase out all Russian oil from Europe by early next year, in protest against the Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But Hungary, which relies heavily on Russian fossil fuels, opposed the move.

In an interview from Berlin, Guilbeault said “in the short term” Canada may be able to supply European countries with liquefied natural gas as an alternative to energy from Russia.

But “in the medium or long term”, Canada could play a crucial role in supplying Europe with hydrogen.

“Germany, for example, is 55% dependent on Russian gas, and it no longer wants it. They wanted to reduce and eliminate dependencies on Russian gas,” he said.

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Guilbeault said Canada is already one of the largest hydrogen producers in the world.

“We can be a player, a big player in the hydrogen economy if we seize these opportunities,” he said.

After the meeting ended, he said in a statement: “G7 leaders have made it clear that energy security and the fight against climate change are mutually reinforcing goals.”

The G7 is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the European Union also participating in the meetings.

In Berlin, G7 countries made significant progress on phasing out coal-fired electricity globally and decarbonizing electricity systems by 2035, the federal government said.

David Ryfisch, head of international climate policy at advocacy group Germanwatch, said the “decarbonisation” of electricity sectors “represents a major step forward and a clear signal for more investment in renewable energy and climate change. ‘energetic efficiency”.

“What’s missing is an explicit date for a coal phase-out,” he said. “In order to be able to pressure other major emitters to get out of coal, the G7 needs to be very clear that they will end coal by 2030.”

G7 members have agreed to double climate finance to help developing countries become greener, as part of the $100 billion pledge.

Guilbeault also advocated at the G7 for measures to protect biodiversity and a new legally binding global agreement to reduce plastic waste.

Last year, the Minister of the Environment announced his intention to ban harmful single-use plastics in Canada.