If you were to order a full-menu climate change plan with all the right words, yesterday’s release of the New Brunswick Climate Change Plan is very good. It’s just that we have to tell Premier Brian Gallant to hold the tar sands bitumen when they deliver the plan.
The plan is very comprehensive and provides a great framework for implementing legislation such as a “Climate Change Act” and creating a dedicated “climate change fund”. On page 6, the plan states that “The provincial government will: 7. Develop a bold and comprehensive communications strategy to educate New Brunswickers about the causes of climate change, including the linkages between human activity and climate change, and identify opportunities for all New Brunswickers to participate in solutions.”
But buried in the 25-page report is a lone sentence on pipelines. On page 13, the following sentence is inserted into a section devoted to transportation, “Shifting the mode of transportation can reduce energy use and emissions such as shifting from rail to pipelines.”
And only one day before the release of this document, the same government was in the Legislature asking for a resolution to support Energy East. Premier Brian Gallant tabled the motion asking all MLAs to support the proposed Energy East pipeline project. The motion was seconded by Blaine Higgs, leader of the opposition party, the Progressive Conservatives.
But you can’t have both. It is impossible to expand the production of tar sands bitumen and at the same time meet our Paris Agreement commitments for Canada. The math is clear; the math is irrefutable (see the numbers at the end of this article). It would be impossible to meet our existing Canadian GHG emission targets for 2030 if Energy East pipeline is built and the Alberta Tar Sands are allowed to expand.
“It would be impossible to meet our existing Canadian GHG emission targets for 2030 if Energy East pipeline is built and the Alberta Tar Sands are allowed to expand.”
All of our work to combat climate change here in New Brunswick could be negated by the expansion of the Tar Sands with the Energy East pipeline (as well as the Kinder Morgan pipeline).
Yet Premier Brian Gallant is taking both his NB Climate Change Plan, and his Energy East lobbying efforts, to the First Ministers’ Meeting to finalize Canada’s climate plan this Friday, December 9th. Premier Gallant will meet in Ottawa with all his other provincial counterparts and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Premier Brian Gallant is going to advocate for the lower transportation emissions of pipelines (versus rail) by taking a very myopic view of only downstream emissions while completely ignoring the upstream emissions from the Tar Sands. And he will want to focus on the NB emission targets for 2030, not that of Canada as a whole. This position is very disingenuous to the peoples of this province and this country.
Climate leaders don’t build pipelines.
For more on the Council of Canadians campaign to stop the Energy East pipeline, please click here.
(Peace and Friendship Alliance Meeting held at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, Nov. 5, 2016. Mount Allison University students from DIVEST MTA and Sackville, No Energy East met with representatives from the Wolastoq Grand Council, Kopit Lodge, all four chapters of Council of Canadians in New Brunswick, Moving Forward Together, Ecovie, Red Head Anthony’s Cove Preservation Association, and several other groups.)
NOTES: THE MATH IS CLEAR
The Paris Agreement states that without global action, the greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be 55 gigatonnes in 2030. In order to prevent the global average temperature from exceeding 2*C above pre-industrial levels, the world would need to reduce emissions to 40 gigatonnes. Even this ceiling will have to be lowered. The United Nations IPCC is scheduled to release a special report in 2018 that will identify the emissions target necessary to keep global average temperature from exceeding 1.5*C above pre-industrial levels (see Adoption of the Paris Agreement, 31pp, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), December 12, 2015).
Note that 1 gigatonne = 1000 megatonnes. A business-as-usual approach in Canada would see this country contribute up to 875 megatonnes (or just under 1 gigatonne) of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Compare this to the worldwide total stated in the Paris Agreement of 40 gigatonnes that would be necessary to stay below 2*C global average warming. A lower figure would be necessary in order to stay below 1.5*C global average warming.
The graph below was released by the Federal Government Department of Environment and Climate Change in January 2016 and it gives a striking picture of the scale of reductions necessary to reach the current Canadian 2030 target under the Paris Agreement. This is the equivalent of eliminating all GHG emissions in Canada from Transportation (~167 Megatonnes CO2 Eq in 2020) as well as from Buildings (~98 Megatonnes CO2 Eq in 2020) (this data is from Canada’s Emissions Trends 2014, 71pp, Environment Canada).
“….it gives a striking picture of the scale of reductions necessary to reach the current Canadian 2030 target. This is the equivalent of eliminating all GHG emissions in Canada from Transportation (~167 Megatonnes CO2 Eq in 2020) as well as from Buildings (~98 Megatonnes CO2 Eq in 2020).”
Government of Canada, Environment and Climate Change (posted January 29, 2016)
Now imagine the challenge of meeting these emissions targets for climate change AND allowing the Energy East pipeline to be built. The Energy East pipeline would allow for a 40% expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands. The extraction of bitumen tar sands is at least 3-4 times more greenhouse gas intensive than conventional oil. It would be impossible to meet our 2030 target if the Alberta Tar Sands are allowed to expand.
The following numbers highlight the problem:
(1) The greenhouse gas footprint of the Alberta Tar Sands is immense.
– Tar Sands = 103 Megatonnes CO2 Eq (2020 projection)
(2) “companies are allowed to switch to burning dirtier fuels as a source of energy for oil sands extraction — further increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands” (see Oil Sands Myths – Clearing the Air, June 2009, Pembina Institute)
(3) Tar sands extraction is also compounded by the fact that approximately 15% of all natural gas produced in Canada now goes to heating the bitumen during the extraction process. Canada’s total natural gas production is 14-15 billion cubic feet a day (see National Energy Board reference, Marketable Natural Gas Production in Canada).
– natural gas processing & production in Canada = 40 Megatonnes CO2 eq (2020 projection)
By 2030, it was projected that an astounding 92% of the current natural gas production would be consumed by the expanded tar sands development (Reference: Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of the Continent by Andrew Nikiforuk, p.132). This projection may be lower with the recent economic downturn and limits that Alberta has placed on the pace of Tar Sands expansion, but the % of natural gas production it will consume would still be extremely large.
The following graph clearly show the greenhouse gas emission trends across Canada:
Government of Canada, Environment and Climate Change (posted Sept. 17, 2015)
The math is clear. We must rapidly transition to clean energy and leave fossil fuels in the ground. Just in the last month, reports concluding this have been issued by the United Nations Environment for Development (UNEP), Oil Change International, and Jeff Rubin (former Chief Economist for CIBC).
Climate leaders don’t build pipelines.