Average global temperatures keep rising. While 2016 is the warmest year on record, the previous record was set in 2015 and, before that, 2014. A new joint report from Health Canada and the Science Media Centre of Canada (SMCC) puts this into perspective. Canada is 1.7 degrees warmer than in 1948.
Alberta’s oil industry won a symbolic victory. President Trump calls his approval of the Keystone XL pipeline “a great day for jobs and energy independence” in the United States. Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) admits the industry is not using its’ current pipeline capacity1 and adding more pipelines is “not consistent with the Paris Accord’s commitment to keep (Global) warming to two degrees Celsius, or its aspirational goal of limiting it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”2 Approving the Keystone XL Pipeline is about our future on a planet where the scale and pace of extreme weather events is increasing.
“Canadian crude oil export pipelines are utilized at 85 to 90 per cent of their capacity … based on respective historical utilization rates.” – Canada’s Energy Future 2016, National Energy Board, p 92 ↩
Some believe the pan-Canadian climate plan is an important milestone on the pathway to mid-century decarbonization. The Federal government and provinces have agreed to “adopt strengthened building codes, to implement an effective clean fuels standard, and to increase the carbon price after 2022.” However Saskatchewan did not sign the agreement and Premiers like Christy Clark and Rachel Notley only did so because they were given “flexibility” to expand their province’s fossil fuel infrastructure. Future generations may look back upon the Trudeau era as the peak of LNG and oil sands development. Canada needs climate Churchills, not Chamberlains.
Last December, Canada thrilled the world’s environmental community by announcing its return to the fight against climate change. After its’ dazzling performance at Paris, the newly elected Trudeau government promptly returned to energy policies of the preceding administration. More than 130 scientists condemned the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s report on the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG terminal as “a symbol of what is wrong with environmental decision-making in Canada.” The proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, in British Columbia’s most populated area, will undoubtedly be approved on December 19. This would result in a threefold increase in the number of oil tankers sailing through Vancouver, which aspires to be the world’s greenest city. Then there is the ongoing melodrama connected to the proposed Energy east pipeline in eastern Canada. Disenchantment is spreading through the environmental community. Despite this, a new report from Environment and Climate Change Canada shows Canada “gets it.”
A year has passed since the World proclaimed its’ resolve to keep the average global temperature rise below 2 degrees. The Canadian government appears to be green lighting the expansion of our emissions heavy fossil fuel sector through the addition of Woodfibre LNG terminal, Pacific Northwest LNG terminal and at least one more pipeline to carry diluted bitumen to the West Coast. (Natural Resources Minister Jim Car says that the now expected U.S. approval of the Keystone XL pipeline does not change the fact Canada needs more access to Asian markets.) They are expected to approve the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which would tripple the tanker traffic flowing past the city of Vancouver, on December 19. The hearings for an even larger project in eastern Canada, Energy East, have been temporarily on hold since the entire panel had to recluse itself because “their participation in these meetings may have created an apprehension of bias which could undermine the integrity and the credibility of the Board’s decision making process.” Despite the fact emissions from the gas and oil sectors are one of the principal contributors to our rising emissions, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says “there is no turning back” in the fight against climate change. At the press conference following the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) at Marrakech, she was confronted about the disconnect between Canada’s climate words & fossil fuel investments.