While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet try to patch together a to-do list to salvage the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in light of last week’s Federal Court of Appeal decision, Policy Options is out with a 13-point to-stop list they really ought to consider, drawn up by The Energy Mix publisher Mitchell Beer.
“The Trudeau government came to power with a two-part to-do list on climate and energy. It promised to re-engage with global climate action, arrive at a Canada-wide climate plan, and support a thriving cleantech industry, while clearing a path for continued fossil fuel and pipeline development,” Beer writes.
But three years in, “it’s lagging on the first part of that plan and doubling down on the second.” While watering down the country’s new carbon pricing plan, delaying controls on fossil industry methane emissions, and postponing parts of its vaunted Clean Fuel Standard, “Ottawa approved two pipeline expansions and ended up buying one of them, in a deal that resurrected the Trans Mountain project and the company behind it in a single swipe.”
That juxtaposition prompted Beer to suggest the things the Trudeau government should stop doing if it “still wants to get its climate agenda right”. The list includes:
- Not squandering C$4.5 billion in taxpayers’ money to nationalize a pipeline;
- Not closing the Trans Mountain deal “in a way that drives up the federal deficit, gives new life to a Houston-based pipeline juggernaut, and enables it to launch new fossil fuel infrastructure projects;
- Not announcing funds for cleantech industries, then devoting most of the dollars to new fossil fuel technologies;
- Not continuing to spend $3.3 billion per year on fossil subsidies;
- Not allowing Canada’s fossils to “set the public narrative, positioning themselves as essential job creators when they’re actually cutting personnel as fast as they can”;
- Not making a carbon price “the leading edge of a climate initiative that is supposed to be about opportunity and gain, rather than loss and pain”;
- Not declaring a marine protected area off the Atlantic coast, only to then “allow the company behind the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster to endanger critical marine mammal habitat by drilling for oil”;
- Not buying into the myth that natural gas is a clean transition fuel, when fracked gas fields are emitting alarming (and not yet adequately measured) quantities of atmospheric methane;
- Not enabling billions per year in fossil industry activity through the federal Export Development Corporation;
- Not promising to embrace the “urgency and complexity” of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, then limit much of that embrace “to communities that support your fossil fuel agenda”;
- Not tolerating legal processes that criminalize pipeline protests, but sanction the fossil industry’s “civilization-level climate crimes”;
- Not undervaluing the water and other precious resources fossils use as inputs to their industrial processes;
- Not following along with the Trump administration’s efforts to gut fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks.
“When I asked a group of climate policy colleagues to contribute to this list, one phrase was the most common response: ‘When you’re in a hole, stop digging’,” Beer writes. “Trudeau and his cabinet are facing what National Observer calls a ‘leadership moment,’ and a great deal depends on how they respond.”