Canada could ship clean hydrogen to Europe

European countries
, including Germany, about the potential to supply them with clean Canadian hydrogen to help them wean off Russian oil and gas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld”/>

Natural Resources Secretary Jonathan Wilkinson rises during Question Time April 7, 2022 in Ottawa. Wilkinson says he held talks this week with several European countries, including Germany, about the potential to supply them with clean Canadian hydrogen to help them wean off Russian oil and gas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA — Canada could start shipping clean hydrogen to Europe in the future to wean it off its reliance on Russian oil and gas, federal ministers say.

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

Canada also played a key role in convincing the G7 — which includes the United States — to end international funding for fossil-fuel projects by the end of the year, the federal government said. Canada made a commitment to this at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last year.

The pledge 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 generation.

Wilkinson and Guilbeault also pushed for a G7 “Hydrogen Action Pact” that focuses on the role hydrogen can play as a clean energy source for the future.

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

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

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

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 at Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But Hungary, heavily dependent on Russian fossil fuels, has resisted the move.

In an interview from Berlin, Guilbeault said that “in the short term” Canada might 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 percent dependent on Russian gas and they don’t want that anymore. They wanted to reduce and eliminate dependence on Russian gas,” he said.

According to Guilbeault, Canada is already one of the largest hydrogen producers in the world.

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

After the meeting ended, he said in a statement: “G7 leaders have said clearly that ensuring energy security and tackling climate change are mutually reinforcing goals.”

The G7 consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, with meetings also attended by the European Union.

The German government announced that the G7 countries had made significant progress in Berlin in phasing out coal worldwide and in decarbonizing electricity systems by 2035.

David Ryfisch, head of international climate policy at advocacy group Germanwatch, said the “decarbonization” of the power sector “represents a major breakthrough and a clear signal for more investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

“What’s missing is an explicit date for the coal phase-out,” he said. “To put pressure on other big emitters to phase out coal, the G7 must make it very clear that they will end coal by 2030.”

G7 members agreed to double climate funding to help developing countries go green as part of the $100 billion pledge.

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

Last year, the environment secretary announced plans to ban harmful single-use plastics in Canada.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 27, 2022.

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