At the end of January, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced new guidelines to evaluate the impact of new pipelines. Jason Maclean writes:
The new regulations stipulate that oil pipeline decisions will be based on science and traditional indigenous knowledge; the views of the public, including affected communities and indigenous peoples; and the direct and upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that can be linked to pipelines.
During their press conference announcing the new regulations, McKenna and Carr repeatedly intoned that “Canada needs to get its natural resources to market in a sustainable way.”
When pressed about greenhouse gas emissions, McKenna told reporters that the guidelines included projections about both upstream and downstream emissions. And there is the rub:
While this is a notable improvement on the NEB’s steadfast refusal to consider either the upstream or downstream emissions of oil pipelines, the problem remains that most of the GHG emissions arising from a pipeline are downstream emissions. An environmental assessment that arbitrarily excludes downstream emissions effectively exports not only Alberta’s bitumen crude oil but also its ultimate emissions.
In terms of science, peer-reviewed analyses demonstrate that in order to have a better-than-even chance of keeping global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, at least 85 per cent of Alberta’s remaining ultimately recoverable bitumen must remain in the ground. In one model, the percentage rises to 99 per cent.
No oil pipeline that will expand the extraction of Alberta’s unconventional oilsands can pass a scientifically valid climate test because any increase in unconventional oil production is incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. This is the scientific standard that must be applied to the Energy East project proposal if the government’s assessment is to be trusted by Canadians.
Justin Trudeau has vowed to assist Alberta's ailing economy and to fight climate change. If those commitments mean seeing the Energy East Pipeline construction through to New Brunswick, it appears that Trudeau has vowed to square the circle.
It will be interesting to see if he can do that. That feat has been tried before -- but without much success.