Canada’s Climate Change Plan – Too Many Questions, Too Few Answers
Canada’s plan to hit net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 is a laudable goal and extends the country’s 2016 commitment to the Paris Agreement of reducing Canada’s GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030! The Global Climate Crisis is today a broadly accepted term since warnings began in the nineteen-eighties, then variously referred to as “greenhouse, global warming, or climate change” effects. This existential crisis is upon us all right now! Rising sea levels, floods, droughts and firestorms around the world, pose the most complex threat our species has ever faced. For those with a biblical background, the recent plague of locusts to hit Africa may resonate with one of Egypt’s ten plagues, together with a repeat of “livestock pestilence” but this time originating in China (Coronavirus or COVID-19), as possible global retributions?
However, as of March 2020, the Federal Government has no timeline to finalize its net-zero policy. In fact, there are no detailed plans, merely a goal! This might appear to many, more like a wish in the Field of Dreams sense of “if we build it, they will come”. Let’s get it straight, the dream is looking more like a nightmare for all sides! To date, the Government has stated only that it plans to establish a “consultation panel” to address this target by the summer of 2020, whilst Canada’s Environment Minister said there is an “enhanced urgency” to provide clarity on how Canada will meet its 2050 emissions goals.
This enhanced urgency has emerged rapidly over the past month from pressure across Canada from indigenous groups in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders’ opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline across its unceded territory. In addition to blocking the Coastal GasLink pipeline route, country-wide protests erupted, supported by Indigenous youth and First Nations such as the Tyendinga Mohawks in Ontario and Gitxsan Nation in BC. Blockades and protests in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en, resulted in the shutdown of much of Canada’s critical rail and port infrastructure.
The Federal Govt. may have caught a bullet when Teck Resources canceled the application for its mammoth Frontier Oil Sands Project, thereby sparing the Government from making a decision which would have required an explanation to both those either backing or opposing the project! Teck CEO, Donald Lindsay, is owed a lot by admitting that the withdrawal was the result of tensions over climate change, indigenous rights and resource development. Lindsay noted that “Canada has to have this important discussion without a looming regulatory deadline for just one project”.
The Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, showing a complete lack of understanding of the threats of Climate Change, is questioning whether the Federal Govt. has the right to impose a carbon tax on the province. Mr. Kenney blamed the cancellation on the Prime Minister and federal policies that cause uncertainty and unacceptable delays. Mr. Kenny also opined that “the provinces are in the best position to know how to deal with the problem of climate change”, although it seems improbable that Alberta, and by extension its oil and gas industry, can or should unilaterally ignore international and national concerns and commitments on the Global Climate crisis.
Indigenous Rights, Reconciliation and Climate Change Activists
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“Under Democracy, individual liberty of opinion and action is jealously guarded. Claiming the right of free opinion and free action, we must extend the same to others. The rule of majority when it becomes coercive, is as intolerable as that of a bureaucratic minority. We must patiently try to bring round the minority to our view by gentle persuasion and argument” – M.K. Gandhi
Solidarity action in support of the Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink Pipeline has led to banners proclaiming that “Reconciliation is Dead”, and opinion pieces claiming that “Business and Political Leaders have long failed to do what’s needed to mend Indigenous relations”. Much of the hyperbole claiming that “clearing the land has been at the heart of Canada’s Indigenous policy”, ignores the fact that the pipeline has support from all 20 elected band councils along the route. All of them have signed benefit agreements with Coastal GasLink! If it is necessary and required that the 8 Hereditary Chiefs who have a separate and contrary view of the project can overrule the elected band councils, then that becomes an internal Indigenous problem! How can the Government of Canada accommodate both band council jurisdiction over their reserve lands and the same time negotiate with “hereditary leaders” who have the legal jurisdiction over their traditional territory! To ignore the painful history of Canada’s relationship with respect to its Indigenous Peoples is untenable, and demands discussion between all parties to reach agreement on matters of law from Federal, Provincial and Indigenous points of view. As Gandhi advised, it will be necessary to “patiently try to bring round the minority to our view by gentle persuasion and argument”
The issues have also attracted support from climate change activists who view any and all Oil & Gas projects negatively in reducing GHG emissions. In the case of Coastal GasLink, however, the reality is that Canadian liquified natural gas (LNG) will be replacing coal and oil consumption in Asia and the Far East, thereby significantly reducing carbon heavy sources of energy.
Whilst these issues are primarily Canadian, in the USA Native American Tribes have opposed the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines on land rights issues and with the support of climate activists. In February 2020, the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal dismissed an Indigenous challenge to the Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMX) expansion, stating that “a duty to consult” had been fulfilled, but protests continue over the construction of this Oil Pipeline. The Canadian Govt. has a difficult task in reconciling the best interests of all Canadians with Indigenous Rights, Reconciliation and the transition to a clean economy!
From a macro point of view, this author is content that Teck Resources has withdrawn from its Frontier Oil Sands project for “economic realities” – Do we really need another mega oil-sands project? However, it should be an economic imperative for all Canadians to support both the TMX Oil and the Coastal GasLink pipelines in order to escape from the competitive handcuffs of a single export market for our oil and gas resources.
The onus is on the Federal Government to negotiate with the Provinces, Indigenous Peoples, and Industry in line with its stated commitment to GHG emissions targets, and develop a roadmap, timeline and targets that are clear, attainable, and compatible with the best interests of all Canadians. In the knowledge that “one can’t please all of the people all of the time” the process should be transparent and reflect that “Under Democracy, individual liberty of opinion and action is jealously guarded”
Founder and President of Clarke Energy Consulting Inc. since 2004, John has over 35 years of international experience in industry and financial services for the ... <Read more about John Clarke>