Trudeau and the puzzle of climate

Trudeau et le casse-tête climatique

The government of Justin Trudeau will have to quickly decide whether it will give its green light to a new big project in oil sands, which, according to environmentalists, would be absolutely incompatible with the target of carbon-neutral Justin Trudeau.

December 27, 2019 20h26


Trudeau and the puzzle of climate

Mia Rabson

The Canadian Press


OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau promises that he will establish by 2020 the instruments to achieve the target of greenhouse gas emissions, the more ambitious that Canada was ever given : to be “carbon neutral” by 2050 — in only 30 years.

But the government would also have to decide quickly in this new year if it will give its green light to a new big project in oil sands, which, according to environmentalists, would be absolutely incompatible with the target of carbon neutral. The premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, has warned his side that in rejecting this project, Ottawa clamerait to the world that the oil and gas sector in Canada has no future.

In an interview in the end of the year with The canadian Press, prime minister Trudeau stated that it was determined to move forward in the fight against climate change. But during the same interview, a few moments earlier, he did not give the green light to mine oil sands, Teck Frontier, north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, which is expected to produce 260,000 barrels of oil per day.

A review committee of federal-provincial approved subject to conditions, in July last year, the project of $ 20.6 billion, citing the”national interest”. This operation is expected to generate $ 12 billion of tax revenue for Ottawa and $ 55 billion $ of tax revenues and royalties for Alberta over the course of his life of 41 years. About 7000 jobs would be created in the construction of the mine and another 2500 in its operations.

The joint committee has agreed that this important producer of greenhouse gas emissions, it will probably be more difficult for Canada to achieve its objectives for 2030 under the Paris agreement on climate change and its loftier goals for 2050. But this argument has not been adopted by the joint committee, because climate change was not his responsibility at the time.

The new federal Environment minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, has said during a visit to Calgary the week before Christmas that before approving the mine Frontier, it will be necessary to determine how this project would be consistent with the goal of “carbon neutral” government.

A “first test”

Canada as “carbon neutral” means that all the carbonic gas and related substances that are spit into the atmosphere can be absorbed by “sinks” – natural such as forests and wetlands, or by wells artificial which captures the carbon to be stored or otherwise used. However, the mine Frontier is expected to add approximately four million tonnes of greenhouse gas each year, for more than 40 years.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of climate action Network Canada believes that the process of approval of this project will be “the first test” of the seriousness of the liberals, who argue that the climate is in the heart of the development of public policy.

“If they are serious about carbon-neutral by 2050, they may not approve in good faith the project of the largest oil sands mine in Canada’s history, which is expected to run until 2067,” said Mrs. Abreu. “A project of this scale, with as much programming, shattered all the targets and good intentions.”

According to minister Wilkinson, the October election showed that Canadians want to be more ambitious measures to slow climate change. But he believes in the same breath that “the vast majority of Canadians are also pragmatic and want to ensure that the fight is accompanied by economic prosperity. For the minister, the solution passes through the “green technology”, which will create more beautiful future economic prospects.

Targets already missed

Minister Wilkinson will in any case find in 2020 a way to bridge the gap of 77 million tonnes between the policies put in place by Canada and the current climate objective for 2030 — to reduce its GHG emissions by 30 % compared to 2005 levels.

At the end of 2018, Ottawa was already that it would from 79 million tonnes of its target for 2030. When new policies such as the “carbon tax” was offset by an increase in emissions from the oil and gas sector and revisions to the amount of carbon dioxide that the trees should absorb, Canada, at the net, has “earned” over the course of the last year that two million tonnes.

Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, Canada has committed to do to pass the emissions from 730 million tonnes in 2005 to 511 million tonnes in 2030 — a reduction of 30 %. However, the combination of policies existing and planned, should allow Canada to reach only the figure of 588 million tonnes by 2030 — a reduction of 20 %.

And the Trudeau government promises not only to achieve the “target of Paris” : he now wants Canada to be carbon neutral 20 years later. Canada should also adopt a more ambitious emissions reduction at the next united Nations meeting on climate (COP) to be held in Scotland in November 2020.

“Stay realistic”

The minister Wilkinson warns that despite the pressure to act quickly, the necessary changes will not happen overnight. “What we’re talking about, it is changing the way we transport goods and people […] the way in which we produce energy, how we treat the waste, build our buildings, modernizing existing buildings. All of this is doable, but people need to be realistic about the time it will take.”

Canadians can expect in 2020 that the federal government adopt a law that will establish five-year goals in order to achieve the emissions targets for 2030 and 2050. Tim Gray, director of the organization “Environmental Defence”, hopes that the government create an independent agency to measure progress.

Ms. Abreu, it would like to see the five-year goals very specific — for example : the number of users of public transport by a certain year.

In addition to the decision regarding the mine Teck, Ottawa would also have to decide at the beginning of the new year whether or not to permit the British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta to use their own rules, rather than the federal rules, for reductions of methane emissions. Already, the federal officials do not believe that the method of the Alberta will be better than Ottawa.

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