Support journalism that lights the way through the climate crisis by June 3

Goal: $100k

International Trade Minister Mary Ng says she expects transparency and accountability from a key federal Crown corporation, after a new report concluded Canada is undermining its own climate goals by allowing the agency to support fossil fuel projects such as the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Export Development Canada (EDC) signed an agreement in April to loan potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to help Coastal GasLink, the controversial pipeline from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat B.C. that was the subject of protests and rail blockades earlier this year after RCMP raided Wet’suwet’en Nation territory. EDC has said the loan was reviewed in line with its “environmental and social” directive.

In a report released Tuesday, sustainable development consulting firm Horizon Advisors recommended that the government legally bar EDC from supporting any fossil fuel energy projects, “including new fossil fuel infrastructure” such as pipelines, and that the agency should “stress-test its investment decisions against Canada’s climate targets.”

These and other bold measures are the only realistic way to eliminate the “clear discrepancy” between EDC’s continued approach to investments and Canada’s climate goals of cutting carbon pollution 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and reaching “net-zero” pollution by 2050, say the report’s authors.

“Our analysis found that EDC's approach to investment is out of sync with Canada's climate policy,” said Horizon Advisors executive director Amin Asadollahi, a former senior policy advisor at Natural Resources Canada and former co-chair of the Green Budget Coalition.

“Although Canada has committed to decarbonizing its economy over the next 30 years, EDC on the other hand continues to invest in fossil fuel projects. These investments not only undermine Canada's international climate efforts but also increase EDC’s exposure to carbon risks.”

Horizon Advisors calculated that EDC has provided roughly $45 billion in support for the oil and gas sector since 2016, compared to $7 billion for clean technology.

International Trade Minister Mary Ng speaks at an EDC panel in May 2019. Mary Ng Facebook Photo

EDC must uphold ‘values that Canadians expect’

The Trudeau government should amend the Export Development Act to prohibit EDC from supporting fossil fuel projects, the report recommends.

Minister @mary_ng says she expects transparency and accountability from @ExportDevCanada after a new report concluded Canada is undermining its own climate goals by allowing the agency to support fossil fuel projects like the Coastal GasLink pipeline

In March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government did move to amend the Act, but its changes broaden, not restrict, the agency’s mandate. EDC also said it has increased its financial capacity to support oil and gas companies.

The agency is governed by a board of directors appointed by the government who report to Parliament through Ng. The minister also provides guidance to EDC’s chair about her expectations of what to prioritize.

National Observer asked Ng’s office whether she felt that such an amendment to the Export Development Act barring fossil fuel support was prudent or feasible at this time, and whether she supported EDC’s Coastal GasLink loan.

“We expect EDC to be fully transparent and accountable for their transactions,” said Ng’s press secretary Ryan Nearing in response to questions. He also noted that the agency is “financially self-sustaining” and “operates at arm’s length from the government.”

EDC must “meet the evolving needs of Canada’s exporters” and uphold the “values that Canadians expect,” Nearing added, “which includes corporate social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.”

In responding to this story, EDC said it has a “large and diverse portfolio” including companies in both carbon-intensive and clean technology sectors, and that “businesses throughout the spectrum are important to the Canadian economy.”

It already considers itself the “largest financier” in the clean tech sector, facilitating about $9 billion in Canadian clean tech exports over the last eight years.

“EDC is committed to evolving our portfolio in a responsible and measurable way, and companies across the spectrum will play a role in the transition to a lower carbon and climate-resilient economy,” said senior communications adviser Amy Minsky.

Wet'suwet'en supporters blocking rail tracks in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Feb. 13, 2020. Photo by Jesse Winter

EDC’s Coastal GasLink standards questioned

In a project review summary posted on its website, EDC said it reviewed due diligence reports, project plans and other material about Coastal GasLink and “determined that the project has been designed in compliance with applicable host country environmental and social requirements," and with the Equator Principles, an industry benchmark.

Horizon Advisors said the Equator Principles framework was “not the most ambitious or comprehensive standards” available to EDC, and instead recommended standards from the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation as being the highest in the field.

That such a project meets EDC’s environmental and social standards “demonstrates just how lax they are,” argued Karen Hamilton, program officer for accountability nonprofit Above Ground, which commissioned the Horizon Advisors report alongside Oil Change International. (Horizon Advisors says its report is its own “independent perspective” based on its analysis, literature review and interviews.)

Hamilton pointed to provincial records showing the company behind the pipeline had violated conditions set by the B.C. government more than 50 times, as well as the opposition posed by some Wet’suwet’en leaders.

“Export Development Canada says it has strong procedures in place to make sure the business it supports is ‘environmentally and socially responsible.’ However, this project was sited on the ancestral territory of the Wet’suwet’en Nation without the consent of its hereditary chiefs. Those leaders argue that pipeline construction infringes their constitutionally protected rights,” Hamilton said.

Last month, hereditary chiefs said they would sign an agreement with federal and provincial governments affirming their title and rights. The memo was seen as addressing the nation’s right to its traditional territory that would provide the outline for a later discussion about the pipeline.

Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer

Keep reading

at what point will the lax standards and propaganda spin in lieu of regs with intent to match publicly stated goals catch up with government?
how much physical resistance and please god media coverage about deaths due to pollution and millions lost in FF stranded assets will be needed to force the feds to face FACTS about FF , create an actual plan to reduce ghgs and invest massively in clean energy?????
We will have to blockade, boycott and march in front of their offices and banks and force them to match their words with actions I suspect. ah well we are getting practised at loud resistance lately

Alberta has had decades to become more enlightened and to rejig its economy to be more sustainable, but it continues as Texas North: oil, gas, beef, religious wingnuts, and other manifestations of right-wing stupidity. Head, meet (oil) sand. The Liberal government is unaccountably kowtowing to Albertans' whining entitlement complex--"unaccountably" because it's trashing its own vaunted climate-crisis agenda and earning the disparagement of the world while gaining no votes from Albertans.

Whoa. Important report. Thanks to OCI and Above Ground for commissioning it. We should be able to expect such transparency and accountability from the government itself, but it appears that NGOs have to do this work. What would we do without them? I hope this is a wake-up call to Canadians about the enormous amount of federal support--from multiple sources-- going to sustain the oil and gas industry. This completely at odds with the science and ethics of climate change.

Who is Horizon advisors? Why should we listen to them? Not one piece of advice, just criticism. Do they not realize that oil and gas is much more than fuel for cars and power generation? This is why the EDC would support oil and gas projects. They know it is a resource that provides significantly more jobs than "extraction" jobs that is most often quoted. It is a natural resource that produces products that all of us (Yes, ALL OF US) use every single day. Including the ability to post on this site and to produce the components for these "Green projects". Yes emissions can and should be reduced more than they already have achieved (which is also never acknowledged) There seems to be a thought out there we can switch to electric cars and solar panels by placing an order on Amazon and then just turn off all the oil and gas production and processing and everything will be all better. Let's talk about whose head is in the sand or worse places.
Fact is there is currently about 35 million registered vehicles in Canada with about 2 million new cars sold every year. It looks like there is less than 20 000 electric cars currently sold. That math alone requires well over 20 years.
Sorry people, oil and gas is not going anywhere soon and wind and solar is a waste of time.
Our best investment will be into our existing Canadian Nuclear program. Stable power supply, lots of Uranium reserves, proven technology and constantly improving.
We need to be talking about Nuclear much more.

Not here but criticism. Do you have any advice or are you just another fossil fool going nuclear with ad hominen spin?

Nothing here but criticism. Do you have any advice or are you just another fossil fool going nuclear with ad hominen spin?

Typical name calling response when presented with some basic facts.
Here is some more. ALL wind and solar requires 100% back up power which is also never included in the "cheaper than other sources" propaganda. Neither is the future potential storage systems.
Open discussion will get us to the solution.

Ray wrote: "Yes emissions can and should be reduced more than they already have achieved (which is also never acknowledged)"

Where? When?
Canada hasn't reduced emissions at all. According to the latest National Inventory Report, Canada's GHG emissions in 2018 under climate leader Trudeau hit levels not seen in a decade. Despite closure of coal plants.
Oil & gas industry emissions climb year after year. Alberta's emissions show no sign of falling.

In the power sector, investment in NEW renewables has exceeded investment in NEW fossil fuel projects for a decade — starting around 2010.
In 2019, the world financed $282 billion of renewable capacity.
"Renewable investment already dwarfs the estimated $100 billion of new finance for coal and gas power in 2019.
"Building new wind or solar capacity now costs less than adding the equivalent in coal or gas plants in two-thirds of the world." (Bloomberg)

"But given that nuclear has been steadily subsidized throughout its life in the US, the industry has acted in a consistently corrupt and incompetent fashion, recent new plants have been financial and political disasters, and renewables continue to defy even the most optimistic cost projections, it’s not clear that the sweeping reforms necessary to revive a moribund industry will gain much political purchase.
"…Despite nuclear’s considerable cheering section, it’s difficult to imagine the political will amassing to plow sufficient subsidies into a dumpster-fire industry to produce a wave of new nuclear plants built with current designs.
"A beginner’s guide to the debate over nuclear power and climate change" (David Roberts, Vox, Dec 19, 2019)

A 2018 PNAS study by scientists 'largely sympathetic to nuclear power' paints a bleak future for nuclear power in the U.S. and around the world:
Key points:
-The existing U.S. nuclear fleet is shrinking.
-Advanced U.S. designs will not be available for many decades.
-Small modular reactors (SMR) won't live up their promise.
-Little chance of a new SMR or other nuclear wedge.

Would like to see your information on the 100% back up power requirement for all Wind and Solar. None of these costs are included in the installation and operation of these Green sites. The result is emission reductions when conditions are suitable. Energy Storage systems will result in massive wind and solar capacity to cover the excess production required to actually produce enough to meet demand and build storage. Thousands of square kilometers of Solar panels and tens of thousands of Wind turbines is better how?

So you're asking, basically, for information on battery storage? There's more good news on that front almost daily. A search engine should bring up lots of info for you.
Some of your points were important a few years ago, but time's marched on, the market has changed, technology has continued apace: new materials and technologies are being developed every day, and use of some petro products has proven disastrous for the environment and human health.
What needs to be done is moving away from the petro industry and petro products, and doing it in such a way that former oil industry workers are redeployed to work that work that doesn't require them to be contributing to the destruction of the planet.
Let alone require massive, massive subsidies by taxpayers who elected this government largely on its environmental promises.

Road transportation accounts for nearly 70% of Canada's transportation-related GHG emissions. That's a lot of liquid petroleum. The development of a cheaper, cobalt-free million-mile battery for electric vehicles was just announced by GM. Tesla is on the same course. Incremental demand destruction of liquid fuels is lurking around the corner and is ironically due to market forces more than anything else.

Electrically-powered public transit accompanied by sustainable land use planning in our cities can and have reduced emissions and traffic dramatically in cities like Vancouver's downtown peninsula, home to over 100,000 people who are energized, so to speak, by walking, biking and low-emission hydroelectricity. Ditto Toronto and Montreal.

Renewables are increasingly affordable, and with conservation measures can and have significantly reduced or eliminated reliance on fossil fuels in buildings. The effort is just starting, and it will be complemented by cheap electricity storage technology like liquid metal batteries that converts intermittency into stable base load power on demand.

Large-scale nuclear did make sense once with this old hippie, but that was before the efforts of Germany, the EU and China brought wind and solar down in price by orders of magnitude.

Today, it makes sense to explore small scale modular reactors (SMR) designed to burn the waste fuel from last generation nuclear power plants (currently stored in deep tanks). The process involves recycling the waste over and over through the SMR, rendering it down to a glass-like material with massively-reduced radioactivity with a much safer repository profile, after the benefit of generating abundant zero-emission power for decades from the waste.

So the pipeline continues to be rammed through as we speak, no? So wrong on so many levels!