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Premiers need to see climate change as the elephant in the room

Delta Hotel
We’ll be outside this hotel tomorrow at noon-hour, join us! 101 Lyon Street North

The Canadian Press reports, “Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers will sit down Friday in Ottawa to discuss energy, skills training, internal trade barriers and the need for infrastructure funding as plummeting oil prices threaten the federal government’s bottom line. …[Ontario premier Kathleen] Wynne says the premiers will discuss the so-called Canadian Energy Strategy, a initiative involving all 13 provinces and territories focused on climate change and clean energy. [Quebec premier Philippe] Coulliard will provide an update, she said.”

The Council of Canadians, Ecology Ottawa, 350 Ottawa, Greenpeace Ottawa and the Raging Grannies will be outside this meeting to call on the premiers to address “the elephant in the room” of increased carbon emissions from massive pipeline projects, notably the Energy East pipeline. That project would emit about 32 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, the equivalent to adding 7 million cars on the roads. The premiers of Ontario and Quebec recently backtracked on commitments to evaluate these impacts following heavy lobbying, including by the premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick.

Wynne now says Ontario will examine the pipeline only on the basis of its downstream emissions, such as bulldozer exhaust fumes resulting from its construction in her province. She has also stated that she wants to help get Alberta get more of its oil to market. And Couillard has commented, “Whatever the future of the TransCanada project, the extraction will take place. So it doesn’t add anything to the debate to look at [upstream emissions]. What we really want to see is the sum of greenhouse gases over the Quebec section of the project.”

They have made these astonishing statements despite, as Mike De Souza recently reported, “Environment Canada’s latest projections show that Alberta’s annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 – driven by its oil and gas industry – would exceed the combined carbon pollution that year of both Ontario and Quebec.”

Today’s news report notes, “Two western conservative premiers, Alberta’s Jim Prentice and Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall, will not be in Ottawa for the meeting. Wall’s office says he’s participating via conference call, while Prentice is sending the province’s municipal affairs minister in his place.” That’s too bad in that both are supporters of the Energy East pipeline project. Prentice has also described the Keystone XL pipeline as “environmentally defensible”, while Wall says he would be “disappointed” if US president Barack Obama vetoed it. That pipeline would emit 22 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.

The news adds, “B.C. Premier Christy Clark says she’ll represent Wall and Prentice, and the interests of the West, during the meeting.” Unfortunately, she is championing the development of liquefied natural gas export terminals in her province, even though just five LNG terminals would release 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and the fracking and transport of the gas would generate another 15 million tonnes of GHG emissions. The Council of Canadians has also been actively opposing this agenda in BC.

After tomorrow’s meeting in Ottawa, there will be a federal-provincial-territorial meeting in late February convened by federal environment minister Leona Aglukkaq to discuss post-2020 carbon emission goals. That meeting will be critical given the United Nations has asked all countries to submit their targets by the end of the March in advance of the UN climate talks in Paris in December. The premiers will meet again in April in Quebec to discuss that UN summit. And then they will be meeting again July 14-18 in Newfoundland and Labrador to finalize a provincial-territorial energy and climate change strategy.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “We are demanding a Canadian energy strategy which features meaningful regulatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions.” Join us this Friday at 12 pm outside the Delta Hotel (101 Lyon Street North between Queen and Albert streets) to push the premiers on this point.