Last month Canada ratified the Paris Agreement on climate, affirming our commitment to staying well below two degrees of warming globally. Also enshrined in that agreement is a goal of moving to a fossil fuel free future by 2050.
Even if Canada had not committed to these goals, we currently have a domestic target of reducing our emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This target is not as ambitious as it needs to be, but bold steps are nonetheless required to meet it. A recent report by Oil Change International shows that in order to meet these targets, we cannot afford to build any more oil and gas infrastructure.
If pipelines such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion or TransCanada’s Energy East are built, Canadian oil production could grow to more than double its 2010 levels. This would amount to 23 per cent of the total global carbon budget for staying below 1.5 degrees of warming. Such a massively disproportionate share would likely contribute to a failure to keep within the climate warming targets set out in the Paris Agreement.
This means that the Trudeau government cannot continue to expand the tar sands by approving any more pipelines. If they do, we are going to have to fight them. The most recent signal that the climate movement will indeed be facing new pipelines under Trudeau came last week.
On Nov. 8, the federal government announced the composition of the committee that will recommend how to modernize the NEB process. The promise to overhaul the NEB was a central part of the Liberals’ climate plan in the 2015 election campaign, and was their go to answer for all pipeline-related questions.
Big Oil connections to NEB review committee
The committee appointed by the Trudeau government, however, is stacked in favour of oil interests. Of the five members on the new committee, three, including the two co-chairs, have strong ties to the oil and gas sector.
Co-chair Hélène Lauzon is the president of the Quebec Business Council on the Environment, an organisation that defends the interests of its voting members, many of whom have vested interests in the fossil fuel industry and the development of new pipelines. Members of the council include TransCanada, Enbridge, Valero, Junex, Gaz Métro and Questerre.
The other co-chair, Gary Merasty, sits on the board of directors of the Canada West Foundation, which promotes the expansion of the tar sands and the construction of new pipelines, including Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
Brenda Kenny, another review committee member, was the president of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association from 2008 to 2016. CEPA is another group that promotes and defends the interests of its members, including oil and gas companies like TransCanada, Enbridge, and Kinder Morgan. CEPA has been openly promoting the Energy East, Trans Mountain, and Northern Gateway pipelines.
David Besner, chair of the New Brunswick Energy Institute, and Wendy Grant-John, the first woman elected B.C. regional chief to the Assembly of First Nations, make up the rest of the committee.
Still a rubber stamp for oil industry?
What happened to the evidence-based decision making we were promised? Where are the independent scientists and engineers? Indigenous leaders beyond B.C.? Experts to examine the social impacts of resource development in Canada? It is hard to believe that if the Trudeau government was serious about having a robust NEB process based on climate science and Indigenous rights they would have created a review committee in which the majority is held by people with interests in, and connections to, the oil industry.
Rather, it seems as though this government might be attempting to succeed where Harper failed, by winning social license for pipeline projects. In addition to appointing this new NEB review panel, the Senate is just wrapping up their dog and pony show of cross-Canada consultations on how to secure social license for new oil and gas development, specifically for infrastructure projects such as pipelines.
In light of these NEB appointments, it appears the goal of reforming the NEB has little to do with climate change and everything to do with regaining public trust in a body that will continue to operate as a rubber stamp for the oil industry.
The new National Energy Board will not act on climate. To believe it will is a dangerous pipe dream. Justin Trudeau cannot be called a climate leader if he continues to push for oil sands expansion. The climate justice movement must continue to lead instead.