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Trudeau government continues to refuse to commit to climate action specifics

Climate welcome in Ottawa

Canada’s new environment minister Catherine McKenna is now in Paris for preliminary talks related to the COP 21 climate summit, but the Trudeau government is still refusing to commit to specific emission reduction targets beyond the weak targets set by the Harper government. This is despite the reality that the COP 20 agreement reached in Lima last year had stipulated that countries would submit their proposed emissions reduction targets by March 2015 and that all pledges would be reviewed this month in the lead up to the Paris talks.

CBC reports, “Canada’s new environment minister says the national target set by the Conservatives for cutting greenhouse gas emissions should be considered a floor for future action. …McKenna has tried to avoid any talk of target numbers but said in a call with reporters today that the 30 per cent cut by 2030 will be the floor, although the Liberals want to try to do better.”

By way of comparison, this is what we are seeing in terms of pledges:

  • Canada – 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 (which equals 14 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030)

  • Ontario – 37 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 (while Alberta is expected to see a 40 per cent increase over 2005 by 2030)

  • European Union – 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030

  • United States – 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025

The Globe and Mail adds, “Ms. McKenna said the federal government will make climate change a diplomatic priority at upcoming meetings, such as the Group of 20 in Turkey next week and the Commonwealth heads of government meeting later this month. And Ottawa will push for an ambitious agreement that will include provisions for progressively improving the commitments made in Paris.”

At the G7 summit in Germany this past June, German chancellor Angela Merkel pushed the G7 leaders to agree to zero carbon emissions by 2050. Her aim was to have agreement on that target to give momentum to the COP 21 talks. But then-prime minister Stephen Harper was instrumental in preventing agreement on Merkel’s target. The G7 instead agreed to the “aspirational” goal to stop burning fossil fuels by 2100. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be at the G20 summit this coming Nov. 15-16 in Turkey. This would be the perfect opportunity for him in advance of the Paris climate talks to signal his support for Chancellor’s Merkel’s 2050 target.

The Globe and Mail also notes, “One of the biggest challenges is how the government proceeds on proposed pipelines that would transport crude oil to Canada’s east and west coasts. ….While Mr. Trudeau has opposed the Northern Gateway project in British Columbia, he has given qualified support for two other controversial proposals: Kinder Morgan Inc.’s major expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline to Vancouver Harbour and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, which would carry crude to Eastern refineries and an export terminal in New Brunswick.”

The Energy East pipeline would move 1.1 million barrels of oil per day, generate about 32 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, and enable a 39 per cent increase in tar sands production from 2012 levels. It has also been estimated that the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion would result in about 270 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over a 35-year period.

And the newspaper adds, “Noting that she has been in the job only six days, Ms. McKenna was vague about how Ottawa will proceed [with the reviews of these two pipelines], except to note that the assessments will be ‘based on science’ and ensure Canadians can participate in the hearings. During the campaign, the Liberals slammed the review procedures – put in place during Conservative rule – as inadequate and pledged that pipeline assessments would include upstream impacts of crude extraction. The government will revise the environmental assessment process, but Ms. McKenna said it would also require higher standards for existing applications. Mr. Trudeau committed explicitly to a tougher review of the Trans Mountain project.”

The Council of Canadians is calling on the Trudeau government to:

  • call for a freeze on fossil fuel extraction (no new approvals)

  • commit to leaving 85 per cent of tar sands bitumen in the ground in order not to exceed the 2 degrees Celsius upper limit for global temperature increase

  • agree to a 100 per cent clean economy by 2050

  • halt the National Energy Board reviews of the Energy East and TransMountain pipelines

  • implement a new Sustainability Assessment Act to ensure all proposed projects are assessed on the basis of their individual and cumulative impacts, their upstream and downstream climate pollution, and whether or not the project has First Nation consent

  • reject the Energy East and TransMountain pipelines

  • support a provision in the COP 21 climate agreement that would shield climate measures by governments from investor-state challenges through ‘free trade’ agreements.

The Council of Canadians is currently mobilizing for the 100% Possible march for climate solutions and justice taking place this November 29 in Ottawa.

Further reading
Trudeau government backs Energy East, supports tar sands expansion (Nov. 7, 2015 blog)
Barlow to intervene at the COP 21 climate summit in Paris-Le Bourget (Oct. 16, 2015 blog)
Barlow calls for freeze to fossil fuel extraction (Oct. 6, 2015 blog)
Barlow calls for protection from ISDS challenges in Paris climate agreement (Oct. 2, 2015 blog)
Harper foils G7 climate plan, Paris is next on his agenda (June 9, 2015 blog)
85% of tar sands must stay in the ground to limit climate change to 2 degrees Celsius (Jan. 8, 2015 blog)