Canada’s fossil industry associations appear to be working to water down Canada’s climate regulations and align them with the deregulatory directions of the Trump administration in the United States, at just the moment when Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is expressing optimism about her working relationship with newly-appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, previously known as the CEO of ExxonMobil.
In a post published yesterday on Policy Options, based on documents obtained under access to information laws, Greenpeace Canada Senior Energy Strategist Keith Stewart warns that “the Trudeau government’s lofty ambitions of fighting climate change are unlikely to succumb to Donald Trump’s presidency with a bang, but they could go out with a whimper.” He says his research shows that “industry’s lobbyists are attempting to weaken the implementation of federal climate policies to bring them in line with the Trump administration’s views, in practice if not explicitly.”
Stewart’s analysis coincides with National Observer’s report on a “cordial 35-minute phone call with reporters” in which Freeland recounted her introductory meeting with Tillerson Wednesday. “I just want to underscore that Secretary Tillerson is someone who knows Canada very well, and in particular has a very strong understanding of the mutual benefits of the Canada-U.S. relationship, and I think will be a good partner for us,” Freeland said. Her department said the two discussed “the importance of the economic relationship between both countries, which supports millions of middle class jobs on both sides of the border.”
But Stewart says the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) is working to stoke fears that greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations will make Canada less competitive if the United States fails to come forward with similar rules. (CAPP must have missed the memo when Conference Board of Canada Chief Economist Craig Alexander said the Canadian economy could absorb a $100-per-tonne carbon price—far higher than any government in Canada is considering—even if the U.S. remained a climate laggard.)
Stewart identifies methane regulations, carbon pricing, and the forthcoming clean fuel standard as the federal government’s top three climate policy commitments, and details how CAPP is working to weaken or delay them.
“The real threat that the election of Donald Trump poses to Canadian climate policy is not that Canada will suddenly turn its back on the Paris Agreement, but that his victory empowers the oil lobby to win the backroom battles over implementation,” he writes. “Taking these discussions out of the backrooms and into the public sphere is an important step toward ensuring that climate policy is made in the public interest.”