November 2019 brought yet another chilling announcement about capitalism’s dangerous impact on the planet. The United Nations Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report found that unless there is a complete shift in the status quo when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions – the earth will reach a devastating 3.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase by 2100. That is sooner than many have previously understood, and well within the lifetimes of millions of children born in today’s generation.
This UN report got straight to the point stating, “Countries collectively failed to stop the growth in global GHG emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required.”
However, in many ways, the Emissions Gap Report is an affirmation of what many of us already know – even though not everyone wants to admit it. The economic system that we live in, capitalism – a system that puts profit and the exploitation of resources above all else - is warming, melting, and killing the planet. Only, each time a new report is released the predictions are grimmer and the united voice of scientists clearer. Yet, the governments of the richest countries in the world continue their operations, it’s business as usual.
Canada is No “Climate Leader”
In Canada, the current Liberal government and Prime Minister Trudeau have developed a uniquely angering brand of climate inaction. For example, in June 2019, he declared a “Climate Emergency” one-day and then re-approved the climate killing tar-sands Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) the next. During the recent federal election campaigning, Trudeau promised to plant trees in exchange for building this same pipeline. Then went on to declare that Canada would reach net-zero emissions by 2050, with not even a skeleton of a plan to back it up. These empty words are familiar to most people in Canada – much in line with the promised “reconciliation” with Indigenous people in Canada - which came simultaneously with the continued trampling of the land and treaty rights of Indigenous people.
Not to mention that the 2019 federal election, including all four major political parties, the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and the Green Party, did nothing to seriously address the climate crisis. There wasn’t event a Canada-wide debate on this supposed priority issue.
As it stands today, Canada is the G20 country with the highest GHG emissions per capita. Based on current policies of the government of Canada – this position isn’t going to change anytime soon. In fact, take away Trudeau’s lies and manipulations – and Canada is set to overshoot by 15% even the modest commitments to reducing emissions made in the UN Paris Agreements (UN Emissions Gap Report).
The government of Canada knows this full well. In December 2018, Environment and Climate Change Canada itself set this number at 11% (reaching emissions that are 19% below 2005 levels in 2030), after they considered the policies that were not yet active at the time in their calculations. Either way, Canada is nowhere near reducing emissions to 30% of 2005 levels – and even farther from net-zero emissions - as Prime Minister Trudeau continues to throw millions of taxpayer dollars right into the pockets of the world’s richest oil and gas companies.
TMX Theft of Taxpayer Dollars
The Trans Mountain Pipeline and Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX), which will operate to bring dirty oil-sands bitumen from Alberta to the BC coast to be shipped abroad, are a clear example of this criminal transfer of public funds to the tune of at least $24.5 billion and counting.
The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis revealed that Trans Mountain Pipeline has received $320 million in taxpayer subsidies from both the government of Canada and the government of Alberta – and this is just in the first six months of 2019. These subsidies are added to the $4.5 billion in tax-dollars that the Liberal government already spent on buying the existing pipeline, and the at least $20 billion they are expected to recklessly spend on building TMX.
Many of Trudeau’s other promises regarding TMX are also being called into question – including by Robyn Allen, an economist and former CEO of Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). Allen has questioned the government for their promise to spend $500 million in revenues projected from the TMX to fund climate and environmental initiatives. As she has analyzed, not only has the Liberal government not released the full picture of the costs of building the TMX project, they have also now refused to release the math behind the $500 million that Finance Minister Bill Morneau has been claiming since this summer.
Not to mention that the Trudeau government has no excuses for why they couldn’t just take the $4.5 billion they used to buy the pipeline and invest it in environmental initiatives right then and there – nearly two years ago. Instead, the government chose a project that is both climate-destroying and wasting taxpayer money at the same time.
SFU Students and Climate Justice Organizers Join to Demand No TMX!
The danger of the government of Canada’s inaction against the climate disaster – and more than that – the expansion of the fossil fuel infrastructure in Canada – can be seen in the growing scar on the face of Burnaby Mountain in BC. As Trans Mountain Corp. (which became corporation of the government of Canada when they bought the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and the TMX project) clears the way for the growth of the tank farm and the TMX pipeline, more and more people are becoming aware of the danger of the project. Simon Fraser University (SFU) – and the 50,000 people that live, work and study there – lies on top of Burnaby Mountain a “High Life Hazard Area” area as declared by City of Burnaby Fire Department. In the event of an emergency, people could face potentially deadly flammable crude oil leaks, poisonous gases, fires burning for days, and exploding tanks spraying molten crude, igniting other nearby tanks with potential wildfires spreading from the tank farm, as further reported by the Burnaby Fire Department. The TMX pipeline project includes the addition of 14 oil storage tanks into this deadly mix.
On November 14, 2019, the grassroots climate justice group Climate Convergence worked together with SFU-350, BROKE and the Mountain Protectors to hold a rally and a teach-in about TMX and the tank farm at Simon Fraser University. The dynamic action included an energetic rally in the main Convocation Hall of SFU, complete with an Indigenous welcoming and speakers from SFU-350, Climate Convergence and BROKE, as well as light-up signs that spelled out “NO TMX PIPELINE!” in glowing letters for all to see. This rally and teach-in were followed by a vigorous march to a busy intersection on Burnaby Mountain that overlooks the tank farm. Then, SFU students, residents of Burnaby Mountain, concerned community members, and climate justice organizers sang and chanted continuously to draw attention to the dangers posed by the tank farm and pipeline expansion. They also made it known that the project is opposed by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, on whose traditional territories the TMX pipeline would terminate.
Less than 2 weeks later, on November 25, SFU-350, Climate Convergence and BROKE were back at it again making a surprise presentation to the leader of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP), Jagmeet Singh during his tour of the campus. At the action, SFU Students spoke with Singh in order to send a clear message that stopping the TMX pipeline was necessary both for safety reasons and its devasting climate impacts. They also asked the leader of the NDP to not vote in confidence for Trudeau if he is building a pipeline.
These successful actions are just one example of how together and united we can work to put a stop to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion. Together, we must also continue to unite to demand a climate justice government that prioritizes the environment, education and healthcare above corporate profits.
We Must Build a Climate Justice Movement!
From here in most parts of Canada or the United States, it is understandingly difficult to even grasp the profound changes that the climate and mother earth have already gone through and will continue to face. However, in many places around the world, the reality of these shifts in climate due economic greed is impossible to ignore - as the storms become unbearable, rising oceans threaten to swallow entire islands, and growing deserts make lands unliveable.
Climate Convergence is continuing to organize actions in Metro Vancouver – against the TMX pipeline, LNG and Site-C dam in British Columbia, and against Canada’s devastating contributions to the global climate crisis. To join come to the next organizing meeting or event by checking www.climateconvergence.ca
Every new piece of devastating news about the crisis of our mother earth should be a call to action. Yes, the destruction of the planet is something that we can all be angry, sad and depressed about. However, we, poor, working and oppressed people around the world, who contribute to the world’s carbon footprint the least, but suffer its consequences the most, have no other option but to fight back. To do this, we must build a more united and stronger climate justice movement.
Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
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