"In the climate change hypocrisy sweepstakes, it’s hard to beat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But he sure talks a good game."
With that opener, the Globe's Eric Reguly captures the corner Trudeau has painted himself into.Yes, the atmosphere doesn't care where carbon is emitted whether it's from burning high-carbon bitumen or the even higher-carbon pet coke, the granular coal that comes as the silent bonus in every barrel of dilbit.
Climate change is a clear and present danger, he says. Left unchecked, it will have dire consequences for the environment, the global economy and humanity itself. In late 2015, just before he enthusiastically endorsed the Paris climate change accord, Trudeau said: “The atmosphere doesn’t care where carbon is emitted. It requires us to take action all around the world.”
Less than a year after Canada endorsed the Paris deal, the federal government approved Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The pipeline connects Alberta to the British Columbia coast and would give the oil sands, one of the world’s most carbon-intensive energy projects, a vast new market in Asia.
Last spring, when a regulatory war between Alberta and B.C. put the pipeline into deep-freeze, Kinder Morgan abandoned the project. To keep it alive, the Trudeau Liberals spent $4.5 billion of taxpayers' money to nationalize it. They also approved the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline, from Alberta to Wisconsin. “I’ve said many times that there isn’t a country in the world that would find billions of barrels of oil and leave it in the ground while there is a market for it,” Trudeau said.
In yet another Jekyll-and-Hyde moment in Trudeau’s initiatives on the climate file, he came out in support of the $40-billion LNG Canada project in October. Owned by a consortium of oil and gas companies led by Royal Dutch Shell, the project will take gas from the Montney fields on the Alberta—B.C. border and send it by pipeline to a terminal near Kitimat, B.C., where it will be turned into liquefied natural gas (LNG) and shipped to Asia.
LNG Canada is a carbon hog. It is also incompatible with B.C.'s carbon-reduction targets and Canada’s ostensible enthusiasm to meet the Paris agreement objectives, which seek to limit average global temperature increases to 1.5 C over pre-industrial levels.In Harper's shadow.
When then prime minister Stephen Harper yanked Canada from the Kyoto climate accord in 2011, environmentalists labelled him a fossil. Perhaps, but he wasn’t a hypocrite. He knew Canada had zero chance of meeting carbon-reduction targets as long as it remained a resources-based economy, and he was right. Trudeau is promising a greener future, but his enthusiasm for carbon-intensive projects belies that image. Canada is still part of the global warming problem.Three years ago, Trudeau and McKenna strolled onto the floor of the Paris climate summit to declare "Canada's back." We would no longer be one of the planet's worst climate pariahs. Evil emitter Harper had been swept from office.
Since then the science of climate change has become much clearer, in some cases razor sharp. We have until 2030 to slash global carbon emissions by half if we're to have much chance of giving our grandchildren a survivable future. That warning means you "down tools" on fossil energy consumption and, for producing nations, on carbon fuel production also. You focus on rapidly expanding renewable energy sources to speed up the urgent transition. Instead this prime minister, just like his predecessor, dreams of flooding world markets with bitumen, as much and as fast as possible. On that score, he's making more progress than Harper ever dreamt of achieving.
There's a line that has become fashionable of late - "We are the last generation that can stop climate change." Insofar as Canada is concerned, Justin Trudeau may be the last prime minister who can stop climate change. The Tories won't. Yet there's no sign Trudeau's Liberals will either.