Canada’s Climate Test Must Not Exclude Downstream GHG Emissions
A guest op ed in the Toronto Star shines a light on the remaining gap between policy and scientific evidence in Canada’s new climate test for energy megaprojects: it still fails to factor in the downstream carbon emissions that would result from the government’s commitment to get stranded oil and gas reserves to tidewater.
“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,” writes Jason McLean of Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law. But “subjecting Energy East to an environmental assessment—a ‘climate test’ —that is rigged from the outset in favour of the project’s approval will do little to rebuild most Canadians’ trust. Just the opposite, actually.”
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And while any climate test at all is “a notable improvement on the [National Energy Board]’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,” he notes.
“That is both bad science and bad foreign policy.”
Even to achieve a 2°C limit on average global warming, much less the 1.5° long-term goal championed by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna at the UN climate summit in Paris, Canada would have to leave 85 to 99% of its recoverable tar sands/oil sands reserves in the ground, McLean writes.
“Approving a pipeline because the bulk of its emissions will arise downstream, beyond Canada’s borders, would violate both the letter and the spirit” of the Paris Agreement.