His statements stand in stark contrast to the agreement President Obama signed this week with China to scale up cooperation on climate action in which it is acknowledged “the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding climate change constitutes a compelling call to action.” In reporting on the agreement even Canada’s far right newspaper the National Post notes that it could impact the Canadian governments plans to triple the growth of the oilsands which will triple greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 as, “the expansion is largely dependent on building pipelines such as the Keystone XL.”
The fact is that filling Keystone XL with tarsands will cause a 36 percent increase from current tar sands production. The emissions from production alone (ie that doesn't count burning the oil) would be equivalent to more than 6 new coal-fired power plants or over 4.6 million cars. If you count burning the oil, the climate impact is equivalent to the emissions from 46 coal fired power plants, or 34 million cars.
In Canada it is widely acknowledged by major banks, economists and industry leaders themselves that Keystone XL is necessary for the dramatic expansion of the tarsands that our government and big oil are planning. RBC Dominion Securities Inc. for example has warned that as much as a third of oilsands growth – up to 450,000 barrels a day - could be put in hold between 2015 and 2017 if Keystone XL pipeline is not approved.
As a Canadian, its been odd to hear various people from industry and government argue that Keystone will not have an impact on tarsands expansion and therefore does not have significant climate impacts. Some argue that other pipelines will go through even if Keystone doesn’t and those pipelines will ensure expansion happens anyways.
Really? The two largest pipeline proposals the Enbridge Northern Gateway and the Kinder Morgan, go through British Columbia where all the municipalities in the province have passed a resolution opposing any increase in oil tanker traffic. Over 100 First Nations have signed a declaration opposing the pipelines and declared “an unbroken wall of opposition” across their territories. To be clear, this has significant legal implications as First Nations in British Columbia have constitutional rights that they can protect through court action.
Approval of either pipeline will result in long and drawn out legal battles. And let’s be clear, Canadians are polite. We don’t like to cause a fuss, but late last year in British Columbia over 12,000 people protested in 72 communities across the province against the pipelines (in the rain and cold, in October).
It has also been extremely odd to watch various Canadian and Alberta government officials head to Washington, Chicago and New York and make speeches about how committed they are to fighting climate change. What many Americans may not know is that while emissions in the US have gone down Canada’s are skyrocketing and despite six years of promises we still do not have any regulations in place that require emissions from the tarsands to go down. The tarsands are the single reason that Canada will not meet our 2020 emissions reductions targets, and why we were the only country to pull out of the Kyoto agreement.
To add insult to injury our government has been systematically shutting down any government body that has the audacity to research or talk about climate change. This year the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, The Atmospheric Research Station and the Environmental Lakes Initiative were all shut down, and draconian restrictions for taking to the media or public were placed on any Federal scientists that still remain in Environment Canada (our version of the EPA). In fact, the muzzling of scientists that work on tarsands or climate change in Canada has gotten so oppressive that earlier this year an editorial in the journal Nature argued that, “It’s time for Canada to set its scientists free.”
Make no mistake America. My government doesn’t agree with science-based policy, they have refused to address climate change, they plan to triple our greenhouse gas emissions and they need Keystone to make that happen.
You and your President who have the power to stop this climate killing decision.
Tzeporah Berman is an environmental author and co-founder of ForestEthics. Formerly the Co-Director of Greenpeace International's global climate program, she was a key architect of the Clayoquot Sound ancient forest agreement in British Columbia, the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, and the Boreal Forest Agreement. Her first book, This Crazy Time was published by random House/Knopf Canada last year. Next month Tzeporah will be awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws by University of British Columbia