New fossil projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will make it far tougher to meet the 1.5°C global warming target that is essential for averting the worst effects of climate change, a Canadian climate scientist told the National Energy Board this week.
“If we build new fossil fuel infrastructure now, which will lock us into carbon emissions for decades, it will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to keep warming below 1.5,” said Kirsten Zickfeld, associate professor of climate science at Simon Fraser University, after Stand.earth filed a motion urging the NEB to factor climate impacts into its latest Trans Mountain review.
“If the oilsands expansion is inconsistent with 2.0°C, it’s especially inconsistent with a target that tries to limit temperature increase to only 1.5°C,” agreed Simon Fraser climate economist Mark Jaccard.
Zickfeld and Jaccard have both served as lead authors with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Zickfeld for the IPCC’s October 2018 report on 1.5°C pathways.
National Observer recalls that an earlier NEB panel planned to include climate impacts in its criteria for evaluating the proposed Energy East pipeline in September 2017. Now, Stand.earth is “asking them to simply apply the same standard to Trans Mountain that they applied to Energy East when it comes to the pressing issue of climate change,” said legal counsel Casey Leggett.
“The board cannot possibly fulfill its mandate of determining whether the project is in the public interest without considering whether the project is reconcilable with Canada’s international obligations to substantially reduce GHG emissions,” the organization said in its NEB submission. “Stand.earth respectfully submits the project is not reconcilable with these international obligations.”
“It is simply irresponsible that the government has so far refused to review the full climate impacts of this project,” said International Program Director Tzeporah Berman. “We need to ensure that emissions decline from all sectors because if we don’t, it’s simply not fair. Other provinces and other sectors are reducing emissions and Canadians are working hard to reduce emissions. We all see the fires, the increase in floods, the water shortages.”
The NEB’s decision on the motion will also be a measure of the credibility it wants for the court-mandated redo of its original Trans Mountain assessment. “This process has been based for the last many years more on political posturing than it has on evidence,” Berman said. “If the NEB is to have any credibility in this country moving forward, then now is the time to change that and to ensure both transparency and analysis of these critical issues and consistency with our federal government’s commitments on climate change.”
After Stand filed its motion, Berman had to bat away a bit of hyperbole from fossil provocateur Vivian Krause, who dusted off her claim that Canadian pipeline protests are driven by U.S. funders.
“The amount of money that has gone to environmental organizations for campaigns is a drop in the bucket compared to what the oil industry and the governments are spending,” Berman told CBC. “This is a campaign that’s run by Canadians and is Indigenous-led. To fearmonger that somehow it’s run by American foundations is insulting to the thousands of Canadians who are standing up.”
In its own NEB submission, the federal Crown corporation that now owns Trans Mountain said there was no new evidence to prevent project approval, adding that the devastating impacts of increased tanker traffic on endangered killer whales would be justified by the project’s “incontrovertible” importance to Canadians, the Toronto Star reports.
“These significant effects are justified in the circumstances, given the critical need for the project and its important benefits to Canada,” Trans Mountain wrote. “The need is real and it is immediate. Canada needs the project now.”
The company “proposed three new ‘mitigation measures’ it is willing to take: instruct oil tankers to avoid killer whales’ foraging areas; evaluate the use of escort tug boats to help respond to oil spills; and work with shipping companies to optimize boat loads and reduce the overall number of shipments from the Trans Mountain terminal in Burnaby, B.C.,” the Star adds. “The company has also committed to developing a marine mammal protection program as a condition for the approval of the pipeline expansion.”
Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail is reporting that the Trudeau government based its decision to buy the pipeline “on a two-month analysis from industry insiders, including one consultant who had previously worked for pipeline owner Kinder Morgan Inc.” The Globe’s report goes into detail on the documents unearthed by pioneering Access to Information researcher Ken Rubin.