Skip to content

Harper foils G7 climate plan, Paris is next on his agenda

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper appears to be willing to trade the planet for the tar sands. While science tells us that the world cannot keep emitting carbon at current rates, Harper managed to delay a G7 target for a low carbon economy by 50 years and even then says it’s only “aspirational”.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Canada has joined other Group of Seven leaders in pledging to stop burning fossil fuels by the end of the century, but Canadian officials are playing down the promise as an ‘aspirational’ target and Stephen Harper says it will only be reached through advances in technology. In their end-of-meeting statement, G7 leaders called for an end to fossil-fuel use by the global economy by 2100 as well as cuts to greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 that lower them as much as 70 per cent from 2010 levels.”

The Canadian Press adds, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel fell short of her goal of pushing her fellow leaders to a broad, iron-clad commitment to a low-carbon economy by 2050. …She wanted the G7 summit to give France momentum when it hosts the United Nations climate change conference this December, which aims to reach a breakthrough agreement in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. …The Canadian Press has been told by sources who saw the working draft of the G7’s climate-change communique that Canada and Japan worked behind the scenes to water down the statement.”

In April 2010, the Council of Canadians attended the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia. That gathering called for a 50 per cent reduction below 1990 levels by 2017. At best, the European Union, Germany and California have all pledged to reduce their carbon emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Right now about 1.08 billion barrels a year (2.98 million bpd) are extracted from the tar sands and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers sees that increasing to 2.35 billion barrels a year (6.44 million bpd) by 2030. The Globe and Mail article today adds, “Suncor Energy Inc. … is building a $13.5-billion oil sands mine it says will pump 180,000 barrels a day for 50 years, starting in 2017. Imperial Oil Ltd., a unit of U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp., plans to more than double output from an existing mine and says it could add some 4.7 billion barrels of new resource to its Alberta reserves by 2030.”

And yet a study by researchers from University College London recently concluded that 85 per cent of the tar sands cannot be burned if the world is to limit climate change (as it must) to 2 degrees Celsius. More specifically, this means that no more than 7.5 billion barrels of oil can be extracted from the tar sands by 2050. At the present rate of extraction, Canada would hit that maximum limit within 7 years. And that collision course would only be fostered by the proposed Energy East, Trans Mountain, Northern Gateway, Keystone XL and Arctic Gateway pipelines which could move about 1.26 billion barrels a year (3.45 million bpd).

The United Nations climate summit takes place this coming November 30 to December 11 in Paris.

While the New York Times editorial board says, “The Paris meeting may well be the world’s last, best chance to get a grip on a problem that, absent urgent action over the next decade, could spin out of control”, Cambridge University researcher Chris Hope already notes that the pledges in advance of this summit would likely result in a disastrous global temperature rise of 3.6 degrees Celsius in 2100. And there are even fears that the Paris summit will result in an agreement that is even weaker than what appears to be the most optimistic outcome at this point.

Given Harper’s climate-killing interventions at the G7 this past week, he should not be allowed to go to Paris in December.

Further reading
Will the climate justice movement “Seattle” the Paris talks? (June 2015 blog)
Merkel presses Harper on climate change, he pushes on CETA (June 2015 blog)
Looking ahead to the COP 21 climate summit in Paris (January 2015 blog)