What Canadians need is a new national dialogue, not about the future of oil but rather about the promise of clean energy.
Credit: www.momscleanairforce.org – clean_dirty_energy
Are politicians in Canada suffering from “collective amnesia”? Have they forgotten Canada’s pledge in Paris, you know the one about reducing our emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030? Have they not seen the shocking numbers — what Canada has to do by 2030 to meet its own targets?
National Dialogue on Emissions is Unrealistic
Well, you can’t get there from here. The numbers are astounding. In 2005, Canada produced of 749 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions according to Environment Canada. The Trudeau government must now cut 225 megatonnes, down to 524 megatonnes per year in the next 15 years — a formidable if not impossible challenge — to achieve its Paris commitment.
But Canada’s 2015 Emissions Trend Report shows that emissions are actually on the rise — from 726 MT in 2013 to 766 MT by 2020. The sobering reality is that it would require cuts equivalent to all the emissions from cars, trucks, electricity and buildings in the country. — clearly a non-starter.
Chart of three scenarios for the output of GHGs. Credit: Environment and Climate Change Canada
The oilsands’ share of national greenhouse emissions is projected to increase by 124 percent to 115 megatonnes between 2010 and 2030. (Environment Canada data). So why are we still talking pipelines and increasing oilsands production?
In a recent Climate Action Network Canada poll, 60.7 percent of people in the Maritimes oppose Energy East while 27.7 percent support it. At the national level, 47 percent oppose and 40 percent support the pipeline. In spite of a growing wall of opposition to Energy East, Premier Gallant of New Brunswick and most of his provinvial premier colleagues continue to support the construction of pipelines to get Alberta’s Tar Sands oil to market.
National Dialogue on Oil is Yesterday’s Mindset
So as Canada continues to drift away from its own targets, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the provincial and territorial leaders, as well as Catherine McKenna and her provincial counterparts continue to talk about building more pipelines and allowing the expansion of the Tar Sands. Oil-rich Alberta needs greater access to world markets they all agree.
The double speak on climate by Justin Trudeau and provincial premiers is confusing, misleading and hypocritical. In a recent article I’ve attempted to show that our Prime Minister has been more of an “empathizer-in-chief” than the visionary leader Canada needs. During his latest meeting with Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley, Trudeau talked about how “Ottawa can work with Alberta on a plan to combat climate change and how to expand access to markets for Alberta’s oil and gas.” But it’s not remotely possible to do both simultaneously.
Mike Hudema (Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner) is very clear on this issue:
We support Prime Minister Trudeau’s and Premier Notley’s pledges to act on climate and to live up to Canada’s global climate commitments but building more pipelines will make those goals impossible……We simply can’t add tens of millions of tonnes of additional greenhouse gases to the atmosphere for decades and call it climate leadership.
Other examples of oil doublespeak involve the addition of a climate test to the National Energy Board environmental assessment process. Both the Kinder Morgan and Energy East pipeline projects will be subject to an upstream emissions test prior to the final decision by the Liberal cabinet. But soon after the announcement, government officials were quick to clarify that upstream emissions will be only one of several factors in arriving at a final decision on a pipeline project. Climate and the environment will not trump other factors such as the economy, jobs, societal needs, etc.
Cameron Fenton, 350.org’s tarsands organizer stated in a media release:
“A climate test on pipelines is only meaningful if it respects the commitment to 1.5ºC that Prime Minister Trudeau made in Paris, and that would mean taking pipelines and tar sands expansion off the table. There’s no such thing as a climate friendly pipeline. The science is crystal clear: in order to prevent catastrophic climate change, fossil fuels, and especially tar sands, need to stay in the ground. Any ‘review’ that concludes you can build more tar sands infrastructure is nothing more than a greenwashing exercise.”
I do not believe that it’s even possible for a pipeline carrying oilsands bitumen to pass a climate test even if its main purpose will be to export oil and therefore emissions to foreign destinations? The exporting of emissions is not climate leadership; it’s blatantly hypocritical and immoral in view of the “Canada is back” announcement made by Justin Trudeau in Paris.
Once unstoppable, the Alberta oil industry is now on its death bed. Energy experts and environmentalists take a very dim view of the future of the Tar Sands. The skyrocketing growth of renewable energy combined with the post Paris Agreement action to slow global warming are the beginning of the end of the Tar Sands.
“Within the realm of sanity, I think the oil sands are finished,” says David Schindler (limnologist and ecologist at the University of Alberta). Schindler predicts a major consolidation of oil operators until only a few remain, but then predicts that “Eventually they too will fall. New investment? Not unless investors are total idiots.”
- Canada cannot meet its Paris emissions-reduction targets if we continue to focus on oil.
- The Tar Sands have peaked and are rapidly becoming a sunset industry.
- More pipelines “does not equal fewer emissions”.
- The “climate test” added to the pipeline evaluation process is merely greenwashing.
- Future jobs in the energy sector will be in clean technology.
- Why are we still talking about pipelines and the Alberta Tar Sands?
- When will we “freeze the tar sands” at current production levels?
- Why are political leaders being so misleading by using climate-energy doublespeak?
- Why are we not talking about the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies?
- How long will it take to implement a national carbon pricing strategy?
- Will the Prime Minister introduce a framework for a national clean energy strategy at the First Ministers Meeting scheduled for March 3?
The New National Dialogue Must Be On Clean Energy
A 2015 report by Analytica Advisors (Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report) reveals the tremendous potential of clean energy for the Canadian economy and the future of jobs in the energy sector:
Canada’s global share of Environmental Goods is steadily declining and we are the world’s third greatest loser of market share since 2008. Our market share of manufactured Environmental Goods declined by 41 percent from 2.2 percent to 1.3 percent. Worse still, our global ranking fell from 14th to 19th. After the UK and Japan, Canada’s is the steepest decline in global market share.
Admittedly this extract from the report shows a trend going in the wrong direction but therein lies the opportunity to shift the dialogue away from oil and towards the clean energy potential. Clean Energy Canada is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who campaigned on the promise of a clean energy future as a key climate solution, to transform Canada into a green energy superpower. Merran Smith (executive director of Clean Energy Canada) talks about Canada’s potential:
When you look around the world, Canada has a clean energy advantage: we have renewable energy resources from coast to coast to coast, the cost of renewable energy technologies are falling, and the market opportunities in Canada and internationally are growing every year.
With a firm majority and a clear mandate, the Liberal government faces an historic opportunity to restore Canada’s credibility as a climate leader, and grow our share of the global clean energy and technology market.
The First Ministers Meeting on climate is scheduled for March 3. The Prime Minister and the Premiers must focus on two issues: a clean energy framework for Canada and a pan-Canadian carbon pricing strategy. This kind of political direction will mark the beginning of a new national dialogue on energy.
Rolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a Blogger and a Climate Activist. He’s a member of Climate Reality Canada, Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa) and 350.Org (Ottawa), the Ethical Team (as an influencer) and Global Population Speakout.