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Prime Minister Trudeau's climate policies are being swamped by his simultaneous push for massive expansions in climate pollution.
The numbers speak for themselves. Here they are along with a chart to put them all into context.
What Trudeau promised
Since being elected, Trudeau has repeatedly promised that Canada will do its part to keep dangerous climate disruption to "well below" a 2 degree Celsius increase in global warming. When signing the Paris Climate Accord, along with over 190 other nations, Trudeau committed Canada to a 30 per cent reduction in our climate pollution by 2030. That's 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) less than we emit now. My "CO2 Scorecard" chart below shows this promised action in the first column.
More recently, the Trudeau government reported that the path to a 2 degree future requires an 80 per cent cut in Canadian climate pollution by 2050. Time is running short in the fight for a safe climate future, and the required cuts keep getting steeper.
Clean policies, small-impact
Since signing the Paris Climate Accord, Trudeau has rolled out two high-profile climate policies. Both got heaps of praise in the media. But as the scorecard chart clearly shows, the actual reductions in Canada's climate pollution will be relatively small.
CLEAN POLICY #1: Coal-free by 2030. Yes, it sounds impressive. But in reality Canada doesn't burn much coal. And we already had federal and provincial polices in place to phase it out. Trudeau's splashy new policy accelerates the phase out but it will only reduce our nation's climate pollution by 5 MtCO2 in 2030 compared to what was already planned. This reduction is illustrated in column two of the scorecard. It's not even 3 per cent of what's needed by 2030.
CLEAN POLICY #2: Carbon Tax. This feel-good new policy also generated lots of favourable headlines. Unfortunately, as the third column shows, it delivers less than a tenth of what's needed for 2030. That's according to estimates by EnviroEconomics. It's far too little to hold off the flood from surging fossil fuel extraction.
Massive dirty approvals.
BIG & DIRTY #1: Petronas PNW LNG. Trudeau recently approved this gigantic liquid natural gas (LNG) proposal. The approval green lights an entirely new fossil fuel industry in Canada: LNG. Extracting and processing all the fracked gas will emit approximately 12 MtCO2 in British Columbia. This threatens to overwhelm B.C.'s entire legal, moral and ethical climate budget for 2050, which is just 13 MtCO2. British Columbia promised to cut emissions 80 per cent by 2050 – right in line with what the Trudeau government says we all must do. Yet Trudeau handed nearly all of these most critical emission rights in B.C. to a Malaysian state-owned corporation. What's everyone else supposed to do? The full lifecycle of all that LNG will exceed 70 MtCO2.
BIG & DIRTY #2: TransCanada Keystone XL. Trudeau asked for it. He "steadfastly" supports it. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has promised "100 percent" to approve it. This mega-project will pump up to 190 MtCO2 per year. That is more than the combined emissions of the 100 least climate polluting nations. Nearly 30 MtCO2 will be emitted in Alberta to extract the the extra bitumen. As the scorecard chart makes clear, this alone will more than wipe out the climate savings from both of Trudeau's signature climate policies – the 2030 coal phase out and the carbon tax.
BIG & DIRTY #3: Doubling Enbridge Line 3. Trudeau is almost certain to approve Enbridge's Line 3 expansion. This mega-expansion would carry another 80 MtCO2 per year. Roughly 12 MtCO2 of that would be emitted in Alberta to extract the bitumen.
BIG & DIRTY #4: Tripling Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain (TMX). A few days after the Line 3 decision, Trudeau will decide whether to allow a tripling of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline. He is widely expected to approve this bitumen-expansion project as well. This would pump an additional 125 MtCO2 worth of bitumen each year. Trudeau will need to force it through bitterly opposed B.C. communities.
BIG & DIRTY #5: TransCanada Energy East. Just … wow.
Running up the down escalator
Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) calculates that fossil oil production must start falling if humanity wants to limit dangerous climate changes to less than 2 degrees in global warming. Clearly that's not what Trudeau plans to do.
Canada is already the world's fourth largest exporter of fossil oil. Here's a chart comparing Canada's fossil oil plans to the IEA's 2°C Scenario.
Canada has increased its emissions in each of the last five years. In fact our climate pollution has gotten so bad that we no longer bother talking about our upcoming 2020 international climate commitment. Remember that? The U.S. is pushing to meet their identical 2020 commitment. Europe already has. But in Canada we gave up trying long ago.
Our previous Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, promised he had a plan to meet our 2020 climate commitment. But his under-weight climate policies got wiped out by his higher-priority push to keep expanding Canada's carbon-extraction industries.
Now our new Prime Minister is following the same pattern.
How much longer will Canada's pattern of climate failure continue? How long do we want it too? And if our new clean-talking Prime Minister isn't going to change our course, who will?
------ Notes on the climate pollution math --------
PETRONAS PNW LNG – The federal government's "Draft Environmental Assessment Report" for this project states that BC emissions from it are projected to range from 11 to 13 MtCO2 per year through 2050 and beyond. The report also states that these levels are "high in magnitude, continuous, irreversible and global in extent ... likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects." That is just to extract and process the LNG. Burning it will release another 60 MtCO2. BC's legislated 2050 climate target is 13 MtCO2.
PROPOSED OIL PIPELINES -- Environment Canada estimates 90 kgCO2 is emitted to extract each barrel of bitumen. A study by Oil Change International estimates 520 kgCO2 is released when each barrel of bitumen is burned. That's approximately 600 kgCO2/bbl in total. Here is a list of the biggest of the proposed pipelines with capacities & lifecycle CO2 from the oil based on 600 kgCO2/barrel:
- TransCanada Keystone XL: 890 thousand barrels a day (kb/d). 324 million barrels per year (mb/y). 195 MtCO2 per year from oil.
- Enbridge Line 3 Expansion: an additional 370 kb/d. 135 mb/y. 81 MtCO2/year
- Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX): an additional 590 kb/d. 215 mb/y. 129 MtCO2/year.
- TransCanada Energy East: 1,100 kb/d. 402 mb/y. 241 MtCO2/year.