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Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the Liberal government did its climate homework.
The federal Liberals tallied all the emissions numbers before approving two major oilsands expansion pipelines this week, Garneau told National Observer on Wednesday.
And as thousands of environmentalists, First Nations, and oilsands expansion opponents reel over the announcements, Garneau said these Liberal numbers show that Canada can build new pipelines, meet greenhouse gas reduction targets and honour its commitments in the COP21 Paris agreement all at once. Many of those who disagree, he suggested, may not have considered all of the new measures the federal government has put in place to make the country cleaner and greener.
"They’re missing the fact that Alberta and Premier Notley has made her plan with respect to carbon such that she will not allow Alberta to produce more than 100 megatons per year of greenhouse gases," he said in Vancouver, B.C. "We have factored that into the (carbon) budget that we have to (achieve) by 2030 and we know from that point of view that we can meet the numbers. I’m an engineer, I really believe in numbers."
Garneau, Canada's first man in space, was in Vancouver after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion (TMX) and Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline project in Ottawa on Tuesday. At the same time, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr spoke with a business audience at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, in what The Canadian Press was calling a "pipeline sales mission."
Alberta climate plan factored into approval
And while Alberta and Saskatchewan may be celebrating the recent oilsands expansion announcement, many British Columbians are not. The TMX expansion would triple the capacity of an existing pipeline system that transports crude oil from Alberta to the west coast, send local oil tanker traffic skyrocketing by 600 per cent, and expose vulnerable salmon and orca populations to the risks of a catastrophic oil spill.
While supporters of the $6.8-billion, 980-kilometre addition believe the project will open up access to new overseas markets and revitalize struggling local economies, its detractors believe that the millions of tonnes of annual heat-trapping carbon pollution from the oil in the pipeline would kick climate targets to the curb.
Garneau said he was in B.C. to explain to Canadians that the federal government is keeping its promises. Consent across the board for any project will never be reached, he added, and the best the federal government can do is achieve the highest level of consensus possible for the greater good of the country.
"We’ve put a price on carbon, we’ve signed and ratified the Paris accord, and we will reduce greenhouse gases by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030," he said. "We will do the additional work that’s necessary so we can meet our 2030 objectives."
Premiers from across Canada will gather in Ottawa on Dec. 8 and 9 to create a pan-Canadian strategy to deal with climate change and confirm the steps required to implement it. The federal government has also recently committed it will accelerate the phase out coal-fired electricity (netting 15 million tonnes of emissions reductions), along with proposing a low-carbon fuel standard. In addition, it posted new regulations for hydrofluorocarbons — another powerful GHG — that should eight million tonnes of CO2 equivalent yearly by 2030.
Garneau spills details on tanker ban
Garneau also said the federal government is delivering on its promise to take environmental protection seriously, through the development of a world-class National Oceans Protection Plan with robust oil spill response measures, and a legislated crude oil tanker ban for B.C.'s north coast.
Legislation for the tanker ban will be on the table by springtime, he added, and will include all persistent oils, like diluted bitumen. It will not include refined products like liquified natural gas (LNG), gasoline, jet fuel, or propane, which are not considered "persistent" chemicals.
"If (persistent oils) make their way into the water they don’t break up or evaporate," he explained. "They tend to stay a long time, some of it sinks, and it causes environmental problems that we consider to be unacceptable."
The ban will include all the water, ports, and harbours between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and Alaska — a pristine coastal ecosystem known as the Great Bear Rainforest. The area had previously been threatened by the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, which aimed to send roughly 200 oil tankers a year through the Great Bear Sea.
The Trudeau government rejected this project formally on Tuesday, and while there are no crude oil tankers currently sailing through the area or projects on the horizon that would bring them there, Garneau insisted that the ban is still relevant.
"It’s there so that it’s going to apply from here on in," he explained. "It means nobody will be able to bring in, let’s say through a pipeline route to the coast, any product that would classify as a crude oil."
— with files from Canadian Press