Without any new, major emissions-cutting measures, Canada will never meet the 2030 targets laid out in the Paris Agreement, said Dale Marshall, national program director with Environmental Defence.
“The math does not add up,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “Our emissions are going to increase under the status quo.”
Yesterday’s green lights for two major pipeline projects was an approval to move an additional 1.25 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta’s oil sands.
Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions, which have been among the highest in the country since at least 1990, have been increasing, according to Environment Canada data.
In 2014, the oil and gas sector accounted for 26 per cent of total national emissions – increasing 79 per cent since 1990, according to the department. Drilling further down, Environment Canada found that emissions from the oil sands have increased more than four times, with crude oil production more than doubling in that same time period.
Under the Paris Agreement, Canada committed to reducing national emissions levels to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
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“The approval of Trans Mountain and Line 3 makes it very difficult to see how Canada can live up to even this inadequate commitment,” said Karri Munn-Venn, senior policy analyst with the research group Citizens for Public Justice.
“While we acknowledge that the transition towards renewables will not happen overnight, we had hoped that our federal government would prioritize in investments that create these jobs now, rather than building long-term emission-intensive infrastructure.”
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s office disagreed with that assessment.
“All major projects fit within our government’s commitment to tackle climate change, create jobs and be a leader in the transition to a low-carbon economy,” Caitlin Workman, a spokesperson for the minister wrote in an email sent Wednesday.
“That includes the oil sands, which are accounted for in our government’s plan to achieve our 2030 emissions reduction target.”
Reaching that goal, she said, relies on input from all sectors in the Canadian economy.
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Two of the first steps the Liberal government took after ratifying the Paris Agreement included plans to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030 (with a provisional exemption provided to Nova Scotia) and establish a “floor price” on carbon pollution.
“Both are good initiatives we support,” said Marshall. “But they’re very modest steps that these two pipelines more than make up for.”
Approving Line 3 and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipelines now puts “incredible stress” on the rest of the country to reduce emissions if Canada is to come anywhere close to achieving the Paris targets, he said.
“There are things that can be done, but our biggest emitter is growing,” Marshall said. “And we haven’t seen anything that will offset the oil sands’ emissions.”
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In a study released in June, before anything regarding the numerous pipeline proposals was certain, scientist and author J. David Hughes calculated the consequences of a number of different scenarios on Canada’s quest to 2030.
Among the key findings, published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Hughes determined the projected growth in the oil and gas sectors would mean that other sectors in the economy would have to reduce their emissions by anywhere between 47 per cent and 59 per cent below 2014 levels.
“This level of reduction is near-impossible without severe economic consequences,” he wrote. “Short of an economic collapse, it is difficult to see how Canada could realistically meet its Paris commitments without rethinking its plans for oil and gas development.”