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Council of Canadians protests pipelines at federal-provincial environment ministers meeting

Federal and provincial environment ministers will be meeting at Old City Hall in Ottawa today.

Our message to them – the Energy East and Trans Mountain pipelines should not proceed, both because the ‘reformed’ review process is insufficient and because any serious ‘climate test’ would stop these pipelines. Together, both pipelines would unleash 45.4 million tonnes of carbon pollution a year.

National Post columnist John Ivison has already taken a swipe at us in today’s paper by writing, “Tragically, this is likely the triumph of hope over experience — groups like the eternally harebrained Council of Canadians are already planning protests to remind environment ministers meeting in Ottawa Friday that the oil should stay in the ground.”

But here’s the science.

Researchers from University College London have concluded that 85 per cent of the tar sands cannot be burned if the world wants to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Even more oil would need to stay in the ground if the world is committed to the 1.5 degrees Celsius target set at the UN climate summit in Paris in Dec. 2015.

And the reality is that Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are increasing.

The 2015 Emissions Trends report, obtained by the media under Access to Information, shows that greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise from 726 megatonnes (MT) in 2013 to 766 MT by 2020.

CBC reports, “And that’s the middle-of-the-road scenario. The report provides a range of emission projections based on the economic growth and predicts the numbers in 2020 could go as high as 786 MT, if the economy and oil and gas prices pick up, or level off closer to 747 MT if growth remains flat. …[Furthermore] by 2030, emissions could rise to new heights if nothing further is done. The scenario projects emissions could range from 768 MT to 870 MT.”

The Harper government had committed at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009 to a target of 622 MT by 2020. And under the Trudeau government, “Canada has pledged, as part of the Paris climate agreement, to cut annual greenhouse gas pollution to 524 MT by the end of the next decade.”

Those targets are incompatible with allowing tar sands pipelines to proceed.

Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue has commented, “While federal environment minister Catherine McKenna did confirm that projects will be assessed based on their ‘upstream’ (filling the pipeline, so including oil production) and ‘direct’ (construction) greenhouse gas emissions, she dodged a question about whether these assessments will include downstream emissions (emissions from burning the oil). There was also no mention of the 1.5 degree global warming limit Canada supported in Paris during the climate negotiations. This will be key to evaluating whether the Trudeau government’s new climate test does what it needs to do.”

The Council of Canadians has endorsed the Leap manifesto which calls for “no new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future” and asserts that we could have a 100 per cent clean economy by 2050. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “Expansion in the tar sands and related infrastructure is our past, not our future. We must shift to finding ways to support impacted oil workers and their families while prioritizing investments in sustainable solutions such as public transit, renewable energy, energy conservation and energy efficiency. This is where our future is, and where we can generate good, green jobs.”

For more on our energy and climate justice campaign, please click here.