Media outlets need to stop greenwashing fossil fuel industries

While claiming to take the climate crisis seriously, some mainstream publications have become mouthpieces for GNL Québec
Photo: spotmaticfanatic
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In the fall, over 250 media outlets got together and decided it was time to better tackle the biggest story of our time: the climate crisis.

On the Covering Climate Now website, the journalists leading the initiative write that in conversation with newsrooms around the world about what was stopping them from covering climate change, many said they simply didn’t know where to start.

At a time when climate scientists say we must slash our emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 or face dire consequences, a good start for Quebec media outlets would be to stop being a mouthpiece for fossil fuel corporation GNL Québec.

GNL Québec involves building a 780 kilometre-long natural gas pipeline, Gazoduc, from Ontario to Saguenay. At its start in Ontario, it will hook up with an existing pipeline that will transport fracked gas from Alberta. The company also wants to build a gas liquefaction plant and an export terminal in Saguenay, so the gas can be exported to European and Asian markets.

In the latest of their greenwashing attempts, GNL Québec announced last week that they are giving $350,000 to an inter-university project researching carbon sequestration. This investment, they say, will help them reach their goal of making their liquefaction plant carbon-neutral.

Multiple mainstream media outlets picked up the story without contextualizing the company's claim to carbon neutrality.

An article from La Presse, for example, made no mention of the megaproject’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, simply stating that a research group deemed carbon neutrality possible for one small part of the project: the liquefaction plant.

This claim to carbon neutrality is tenuous and indirect — the company says eventually they’d like to buy carbon credits from this project, which will allow them to claim the Saguenay liquefaction plant is carbon neutral — but let’s say it’s true.

The liquefaction plant will be responsible for 421,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This may be a lot, but it represents less than 6 per cent of the project’s total annual emissions.

Think about that. Even if the liquefaction plant is carbon neutral, only 6 per cent of the project’s total emissions will be neutralized.

The trend of playing into GNL Québec’s spin without fact-checking or contextualizing is not new.

GNL Québec likes to refer to their future plant as “the greenest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility in the world.” This quote is taken from a Feb. 20 press release, and they have used similar language in their public communications since then.

There are no facts to back this up.

The Energy East pipeline failed because of a lack of social acceptability in Quebec.

And yet, on Feb. 20, TVA Nouvelles wrote an article with a headline reading, “GNL Québec veut produire le gaz naturel liquéfié le plus vert au monde” (“GNL Québec wants to produce the greenest liquefied natural gas in the world”). The article does not explain that the company has no research to back up the claim, nor does it quote or paraphrase an opposing viewpoint.

There is a video at the top of the page in which the reporter interviews an organizer, who asks for research on that exact claim. How much effort would it have taken to include a quote from that person in the article?

It’s no wonder GNL Québec wants to be perceived as green. The Energy East pipeline failed because of a lack of social acceptability in Quebec.

But this is even more reason for media outlets to cut through the public relations spin and report on the facts.

What are the facts? Forty-four million cubic metres of natural gas would be transported each day from Alberta. This is over two times Quebec’s entire daily energy consumption.

And according to research commissioned by GNL Québec, the megaproject will lead to the production of almost 8 million tons of GHG a year.

This is comparable to the amount of GHG reduction in Quebec since 1990. In one year, all the effort Quebec has put into reducing greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 would be rendered null.

It is misleading for media outlets to cite GNL Québec’s claim to carbon neutrality without putting it into context. And it is fake news to report on a project as if it’s the greenest project ever, without the facts to back it up.

Media outlets must stop being a mouthpiece for GNL Québec and start reporting the facts.

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