At the recent COP25 climate talks in Madrid, Canada told the world that climate action is our number one priority. The Trudeau government promised to set Canada on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050. This promise will soon be put to the test. The Tyee reports that the “looming decision” over the Frontier-Teck oilsands project “will powerfully signal whether it favours oil patch growth over fighting the climate emergency.” It’s one or the other—you can’t have it both ways.
Will it be Climate or Teck?
Will climate action really be the top priority or will the expansion of the Tar Sands continue to dominate Trudeau’s national climate policy? Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is adamant that the drive to net-zero emissions is non-negotiable. “That is a target that is not informed by politics. It’s informed by science,” says Wilkinson.
If the Frontier-Teck mega mine is approved, “it would operate until 2067, adding a whopping 6 megatonnes of climate pollution every year. That’s on top of the increasing amount of carbon that Canada’s petroleum producers are already pumping out every year,” wrote Tzeporah Berman in a December Guardian Oped.
The choice could not be clearer according to Berman. “Approving Teck Resources’ Frontier mine would effectively signal Canada’s abandonment of its international climate goals,” whereas “by rejecting the Teck mega mine, the Canadian government could signal that it is committed to stopping this runaway train [of greenhouse gas emissions].”
8 Reasons Why Teck Must be Rejected
In her Environmental Defence blog piece, Julia Levin (Climate Program Manager) lays out 8 reasons to reject Teck’s massive new Tar Sands mine. You can read the full piece here.
1. It’s a Carbon Bomb
Its greenhouse emissions are fundamentally inconsistent with Canada’s climate targets. If constructed, the new mine would further expand the tar sands and lock in 6 megatonnes of carbon emissions (CO2e) per year until 2067, well after the government’s 2050 timeline for Canada to be carbon-neutral. Six megatonnes is the yearly equivalent of all British Columbia’s private vehicle emissions! Over the lifetime of the project, its cumulative emissions are estimated to reach 151 Mt CO2e.
2. Already over our Carbon Budget
A recent report found that carbon emissions from oil and gas in existing fields and mines take the world beyond 1.5°C of warming. Any new production would result in warming well beyond 2°C. The continued expansion of oil and gas is incompatible with a climate-safe future.
3. The project is Huge
If built, the Frontier Mine is projected to dig up more than 29,000 hectares and produce 260,000 barrels of oil per day at full capacity – making it the largest tar sands mine ever built. And it would be pumping out oil – and pollution – for as long as 41 years.
Canada needs a climate test — a mechanism which would allow the country to only approve projects compatible with our climate targets. — Julia Levin
4. Frontier-Teck would infringe on the rights of First Nations
The Joint Review Panel (Impact Assessment Agency of Canada) found that the mine would likely result in significant adverse effects on the asserted rights, use of land and resources, and culture of local Indigenous groups. The panel put forward some proposed conditions – but they do not address community concerns that were raised at public hearings, and they do not effectively mitigate known adverse environmental impacts.
5. It makes no Financial Sense
A project of this magnitude requires decades of sustained high oil prices to make it economical. There is ample evidence that oil prices are unlikely to stay high enough to cover break-even costs for a project this massive for the 41 years of its lifecycle. If built, will this it end up being another source of major government subsidies to keep it afloat?
6. Likely another oil project the Public will pay to Clean Up
Not only would the mine not be profitable enough to break even, it’s unlikely to end up covering the $3 billion needed for land reclamation costs. According to recent estimates, cleaning up Alberta’s oilpatch – including the 90,000 abandoned oil wells, toxic tailing ponds and ageing pipelines – could cost up to $260 billion. How much has the industry committed to this clean up cost? Only $1.6 billion – less than 1% of the overall cost – leaving taxpayers on the hook for the rest of it. Teck has not shown that it will be able to cover the costs of clean-up. Why should future generations be left on the hook?
7. It would harm At-Risk Species and destroy Critical Habitats
The project would destroy 14,000 hectares of wetlands and 3,000 hectares of old-growth forest. It’s also very close to Wood Buffalo National Park, a UNESCO heritage site. The JRP found that there “may be a loss of habitat for many species…including species at risk, for at least 100 years following closure in 2081.”
8. Teck’s awful environmental Track Record
Systemic pollution problems at Teck’s facilities in British Columbia do not inspire confidence in this company’s ability or willingness to manage the significant environmental risks posed by a massive tar sands mining operation. This is the same company that fought the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington in court for 11 years when it was found that the company’s smelter was leaking 400 tons of toxic waste a day into the Columbia River.
Today there are over 150 tar sands projects in Alberta. They have resulted in the clearing of over 500 square kilometres of land, the withdrawal of 111.5 million cubic metres of water annually from lakes and rivers, and the creation of toxic tailing ponds that cover 250 square kilometres.
In the midst of a climate emergency, approving this mine is unacceptable.
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