Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna were among the first to line up and loudly declare their “disappointment” with U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement that the he was taking that country out of the international Paris Climate Agreement. The move was hypocritical given that while they publicly champion the Paris Agreement, their government will completely miss its own modest climate commitments if the resources extraction projects it has approved since taking office are able to be built. Fortunately this has been met with considerable opposition - and the fight to save the environment is currently centred in British Columbia and opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. With both Kinder Morgan and Justin Trudeau promising to start construction in the fall, this summer looks to be especially critical is stopping the project and protecting the environment.
While Trudeau and McKenna took photos with kids and kayaks to celebrate World Environment Day, a new report by the Columbia Institute details the extent of the government's misleading climate claims.
“The unfortunate truth is that Canada is behind,” said Charley Beresford, executive director of the Columbia Institute. “Canada’s current targets are not science based. They will not meet the global test of the Paris agreement requirements.”
The report points to a line graph from the federal governments' national inventory report on greenhouse gas emissions, published in spring 2017, which shows that even with proposed measures to reduce emissions, Canada will miss its 2030 target without "additional measures."
The targets are insufficient already. Canada’s current target is to cut 30 per cent of emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. This is much less than what the Institute refers to as the “international scientific consensus” which says that industrialized countries need to cut emissions by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050 in order to stabilize carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and prevent catastrophic global warming.
That's a very big gap!
The Kinder Morgan Pipeline Precedent
That's why the fight to stop Kinder Morgan's 7.4 billion dollar pipeline expansion, which would ship dirty tar sands oil from Edmonton to Burnaby, has taken on so much significance. On one side there is the growing public understanding that a pipeline that commits Canada to dirty oil for decades to come is incredibly dangerous and unnecessary. On the other side are the oil corporations and Trudeau's government who have realized that if the Kinder Morgan pipeline is stopped, it jeopardizes all of their plans for further environmentally unsustainable projects.
The Globe and Mail newspaper summarized the challenge as the oil industry sees it, “As renewable energy technology becomes economic and efficient beyond any predictions made just a few years ago, and growth in the global demand for oil slows, Canada needs to capture market share while the worldwide appetite for oil still exists.”
While Kinder Morgan has tried to put on a confident public face by saying that it will start pipeline construction this fall, several factors have given more hope to the growing grassroots movement opposing the pipeline.
Kinder Morgan was barely able to raise 1.75 billion on its initial public offering of stocks in the project, and only after it was forced to heavily discount the stock, which then closed lower than the opening price. In Kinder Morgan's required investement “prospectus” to potential investors, it as also forced to admit that:
“An investment in Restricted Voting Shares should only be made by persons who can afford a significant or total loss of their investment.”
Its long list of risks includes, “Inabilities to overcome challenges posed by or related to regulatory approvals by federal, provincial or municipal governments, difficulty in obtaining, or inability to, obtain permits (including those that are required prior to construction such as the permits required under the Species at Risk Act), Land Agreements, public opposition, blockades, legal and regulatory proceedings (including judicial reviews, injunctions, detailed route hearings and land acquisition processes), delays to ancillary projects that are required for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (including power lines and power supply), increased costs and/or cost overruns, inclement weather or significant weather-related events (including storms and rising sea levels (potentially resulting from climate change) impacting the Business’ marine terminals) and other issues.”
Kinder Morgan is probably not thrilled at the agreement made between the BC NDP and BC Green Party, which gives them a majority in the provincial parliament. One of the initial points of agreement is that the parties will “immediately employ every tool available” to stop the project.
The company is also facing at least 19 seperate lawsuits from indigenous nations and municipalities, with potential for many more. When Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notely brazenly stated, "Mark my words, that pipeline will be built, the decisions have been made," Grand Cheif Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs immediately responded, "Mark my words. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project will never see the light of day.”
"She's speaking out one side of her mouth that they need to uphold and embrace the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and then on the other hand completely rejecting the notion that we have the right to free, prior and informed consent to protect and defend the health, safety and well-being of our people and the environmental integrity of our respective territories," Phillips continued.
Squamish Chief Ian Campbell agrees, "It's the willful destruction of the environment where we've seen nothing but a gold rush mentality upon arrival of Europeans to this part of the world, where they continue to claim our lands and waters.”
Most importantly, widespread opposition to the pipeline has become a major issue for anyone considering the issue, whether that be oil corporations, government, investors, media or poor and working people. Prime Minister Trudeau has been unable to go anywhere in Canada without climate justice protestors “greeting” him, and major demonstrations continue to happen regularly across BC, Canada, and even in neighbouring Washington State. Led by indigenous nations, organizations and individuals have continued to come together and mobilize to truly become a major player in this issue.
What's needed now is for the grassroots movement to go from being a major player, to a decisive one. Kinder Morgan, Prime Minister Trudeau and Alberta Premier Notley are all doubling down on their commitment to force the Kinder Morgan pipeline through, and so we need to double down and expand our organizing as well.
We cannot wait and hope that either the provincial or federal government solve this issue for us. If we do not organize, the deep-seated interests which are pushing this pipeline forward will have their way. We are a broad and powerful movement with a huge potential to grow. Especially when we further expose the legacy of broken environmental and “job creation” promises of these oil companies and their government backers.
When Trudeau was elected he famously declared “Canada is back” at the United Nations Climate Summit which produced the Paris Agreement. He would have been more accurate to say, “We are at the back, and we will stay there as long as possible.” Our planet and our communities require bold action, and ensuring the Kinder Morgan pipeline is not built can be a major precedent setting victory. Let's work together to ensure a better future for all of us!
No Kinder Morgan Pipeline!
Climate Justice Now!
Follow Thomas on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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