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Winnipeg chapter says ‘carbon budget’ must enter our political vocabulary

Riley McMurray

Riley McMurray holds a ‘Keep It In The Ground’ sign at the ‘green NAFTA’ signing in Winnipeg.

The Council of Canadians Winnipeg chapter says “keeping it in the ground” must be part of the national conversation.

The Uniter, Winnipeg’s weekly urban journal, reports, “On Feb. 11 and 12, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and his Mexican and American counterparts … met and signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Climate Change and Energy Collaboration at Manitoba Hydro Place in Downtown Winnipeg. While the press was snapping pictures, Riley McMurray stepped in front of the cameras with a sign that read ‘Keep It In The Ground’. After a few words about pipelines, he said, ‘We must leave 80 per cent of fossil fuels in the ground if we are to meet Trudeau’s lofty goal that he agreed to in Paris of 1.5 degrees Celsius. We need to transition to a renewable alternative energy economy in Alberta in solidarity with Albertan workers.'”

“Carr announced that for the first time, North American energy maps and data have been brought together on one platform. Canada, the U.S. and Mexico will also work together on low-carbon energy development and deployment, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency, and reducing emissions from the oil and gas sector. Soon, the media was calling this a step towards a ‘green NAFTA’ and McMurray was characterized as a pipeline protester ‘allowed to say his piece’.”

The article then highlights, “Douglas Tingey, a carbon finance lawyer and member of the Winnipeg chapter of the Council of Canadians, [says] that ‘piece’ should be part of the conversation. ‘I’m very happy that people are looking to spend more money on renewable energy and better ways of doing things. But there’s another problem that has to be solved at the same time… now. Not over 10, 15, 20 years, hoping that technologies are going to come in and save us.'”

The article also notes, “While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has set a global carbon budget limiting global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, energy companies already have five times the remaining budget in their reserves, and ‘carbon budget’ is not in the Canadian political vocabulary, Tingey says. ‘Our commitment to reduce (emissions) is not part of an international budgeting process’, Tingey says. Tingey also explains that the government only counts emissions within Canada, not those that occur when Canadian fuels are burned in other countries.”

When the Trudeau government announced its interim regulations for pipeline review processes in late-January, Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue commented, “[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, but 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.”

We have also highlighted in numerous blogs that British researchers at University College London have concluded that 85 per cent of the tar sands would have to be left in the ground to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. That study specified that no more than 7.5 billion barrels of oil from the tar sands can be produced over the next 35 years.

The proposed Energy East pipeline would move 1,100,000 barrels of oil a day. That means about 401,500,000 barrels per year. If the limit that can be drawn from the tar sands is 7,500,000,000, we have calculated that limit would be reached in about 19 years. That means Canada would hit its carbon budget within two decades with only the Energy East pipeline (no other pipelines, no other tar sands production). A 1.5°C target would mean that deadline would come even sooner. And given the Liberals have also publicly supported an expansion of the tar sands and have not ruled out Energy East, their 1.5°C promise appears for now to lack credibility.

Harden-Donahue says, “With ambitious targets must come ambitious actions. This means freezing tar sands expansion, rejecting both the Energy East and Kinder Morgan pipelines, and planning for a just transition towards a fossil free economy and society by 2050.”

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