Rad­i­cal greens tar­get mu­seum’s lob­by­ist links

Montreal Gazette - - NP - JOHN IVISON

Bill McKibben, a rad­i­cal U.S. en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist who would pre­fer to keep all car­bon in the ground, has up­set the Trudeau gov­ern­ment by call­ing the Prime Min­is­ter “the brother” of Don­ald Trump on cli­mate change.

Now, McKibben is lob­by­ing the Cana­dian Mu­seum of His­tory to cut ties with its spon­sor, the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Petroleum Pro­duc­ers, an or­ga­ni­za­tion he calls “sleazy oil lob­by­ists.”

The Lib­er­als are ap­par­ently con­cerned about the crit­i­cism dent­ing sup­port for their twin­track pol­icy of ap­prov­ing pipe­lines and im­pos­ing a na­tional car­bon tax. They are en­cour­ag­ing more mod­er­ate en­vi­ron­men­tal voices to dis­as­so­ci­ate them­selves from the what one called McKibben’s “strato­spheric hy­per­bole.”

McKibben is a co-founder of 350.org, an in­ter­na­tional grass­roots cli­mate move­ment that seeks to stop all fos­sil fuel projects and which counts Cana­dian au­thor Naomi Klein among its board mem­bers. The group tar­gets po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in its ef­forts to fight “iconic” bat­tles against the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try.

McKibben wrote an ar­ti­cle pub­lished last Mon­day in Bri­tain’s The Guardian news­pa­per that called Trudeau a “dis­as­ter for the planet.”

“Don­ald Trump is a creep and un­pleas­ant to look at but at least he’s not a stun­ning hyp­ocrite when it comes to cli­mate change,” he wrote, crit­i­ciz­ing the de­ci­sion to push new pipe­lines through in Canada and the U.S.

McKibben claimed the 173 bil­lion bar­rels of re­cov­er­able oil in Canada’s oil­sands ac­counts for 30 per cent of what is needed to take the world past the 1.5 C tem­per­a­ture-in­crease tar­get set in Paris last year (al­though, as Univer­sity of Al­berta en­ergy econ­o­mist Andrew Leach has pointed out, at cur­rent ex­trac­tion rates it would take 200 years to re­cover that amount of oil).

McKibben is clearly not done with Trudeau yet, though. In a let­ter this week to sup­port­ers, he pointed to an­other ex­am­ple of what he called the Prime Min­is­ter’s fail­ure to take cli­mate change se­ri­ously.

“I’m writ­ing to you today to ask you to call on Canada’s most iconic mu­seum to cut ties with the dirt­i­est oil lobby in the coun­try — the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Petroleum Pro­duc­ers,” the let­ter read.

He said 350.org plans to at­tend the mu­seum’s an­nual pub­lic meet­ing next week to protest “the oil in­dus­try’s dirty tricks.”


Pa­tri­cia Lynch, the mu­seum’s di­rec­tor of cor­po­rate af­fairs, said that in 2013 CAPP an­nounced a $1-mil­lion, fiveyear spon­sor­ship deal for an ex­hi­bi­tion on Con­fed­er­a­tion that opened in 2015 and has since trav­elled to six cities around the coun­try. “The mu­seum wel­comes dia­logue re­lated to our work as a pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion,” she said.

But the rad­i­cal greens have ruf­fled feath­ers among more mod­er­ate ad­vo­cates of cli­mate-change ac­tion, who agree with Trudeau that no coun­try would find 173 bil­lion bar­rels of oil in the ground and just leave it there.

Leach pointed out that McKibben him­self has en­dorsed car­bon pric­ing as the way “to en­list mar­kets in the fight against global warm­ing.”

Bruce Lourie, pres­i­dent of the Ivey Foun­da­tion, a pri­vate char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion that cham­pi­ons in­te­grat­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and the econ­omy, called McKibben’s mes­sage “wrong and un­help­ful.”

“Canada is now on a tran­si­tion path­way to a low­car­bon econ­omy,” he said. “The great chal­lenge is that coun­tries all over the world, in­clud­ing the United States, still have an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for Cana­dian oil. The is­sue is for­eign de­mand, not Cana­dian sup­ply.”

Lourie said it would be “nice to wave a magic wand” and make oil go away overnight, but that’s not re­al­is­tic.

He said Canada has ad­dressed its own de­mand is­sues by phas­ing out coal­fired elec­tric power and in­tro­duc­ing a car­bon tax, while at the same time ap­prov­ing pipe­lines that would pro­vide the great­est eco­nomic ben­e­fit and the least en­vi­ron­men­tal harm.

Pipe­lines have be­come a po­tent sym­bol for all things wrong with fos­sil fu­els, Lourie said. “But they are mostly that: sym­bolic.”

“Trudeau took a bold step into the mid­dle and the fact that both sides erupted into knee-jerk crit­i­cism isn’t sur­pris­ing. Trudeau’s gov­ern­ment did what the mo­ment re­quired: it opened up a nec­es­sary space in the cen­tre.”

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment is suf­fi­ciently con­cerned about the prospect of los­ing sup­port among green vot­ers that it is en­cour­ag­ing in­flu­en­tial pro­gres­sive fig­ures to speak out against McKibben.

But the polling ev­i­dence sug­gests Cana­di­ans back the Lib­er­als’ en­ergy and econ­omy strat­egy, in­clud­ing car­bon pric­ing. A Nanos Re­search Group poll pub­lished in March found broad ma­jor­ity sup­port across the coun­try for both a price on car­bon and pipe­line ex­pan­sion.


Bill McKibben wrote an ar­ti­cle last week in Bri­tain’s The Guardian news­pa­per that called Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau a “dis­as­ter for the planet.”

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