The government that triumphantly promised a climate test for new energy megaprojects has just bought a pipeline that wouldn’t pass that test, according to University of British Columbia climate scientist Simon Donner.
“All I’m saying, as somebody who studies this stuff for a living, is the actual math doesn’t work,” Donner told The Star Vancouver last week. “If you put this to a climate test, it would fail.”
While “the political math might look good that we can build a pipeline, support the oil sands, and still meet our climate targets,” the paper adds, Trans Mountain “will make it increasingly unlikely that we’ll meet our climate targets.”
Caroline Thériault, spokesperson for Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna, asserted in a statement that “the project fits within our government’s commitment to tackle climate change, create jobs, and be a leader in the transition to a low carbon economy.” She added that “Canada’s clean growth and climate action plan gets us on track to our target after factoring in the impacts of the Trans Mountain expansion and a growing oil and gas sector.”
But Canada is already falling behind the Harper-era emissions goal for 2030 that it adopted as a target under the Paris Agreement, and that McKenna and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have both repeatedly declared a floor, not a ceiling for the country’s climate ambition. The government admitted early this year that it was 66 megatonnes short of the target, and the Pembina Institute placed the gap above 100 Mt.
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion represents 27 megatonnes of emissions per year, and with that calculation in the mix, Donner says the country’s prospects of meeting its Paris target go from “quite unlikely” to “almost impossible”, The Star Vancouver notes. “At minimum, Donner said, the pipeline would ‘lock in’ the current level of oil sands production and possibly lead to an increase.”
He added that, by buying the pipeline, Ottawa “is giving preferential treatment to one industry and making the challenge in other industries harder.”
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is projecting a 53% increase in tar sands/oil sands production between 2016 and 2030, the paper notes. While spokesperson Elisabeth Besson claimed that “innovation can break the link between energy growth and emissions growth,” that promise focuses only on production emissions—not on the greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere when the product passes through a pipeline, reaches its destination, and is used as directed.