Mixed sig­nals

Valley Journal Advertiser - - OPINION -

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has longcham­pi­oned the Lib­eral party’s po­si­tion that fos­sil fuel de­vel­op­ment and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns are not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive – each can suc­cess­fully co-ex­ist. Whether the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion re­mains in­tact or is dealt a set­back fol­low­ing the lat­est cli­mate change sum­mit in Poland re­mains to be seen.

Canada joined al­most 200 other coun­tries in rat­i­fy­ing a com­plex en­vi­ron­men­tal pack­age that will en­act the gen­eral ob­jec­tives set out in Paris three years ago. Fol­low­ing the Paris ac­cord, Mr. Trudeau launched an am­bi­tious plan to ful­fill this coun­try’s com­mit­ments to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions. The deal struck in Ka­tow­ice, Poland fills in many of the blanks and sets out how coun­tries re­port their emis­sions and ef­forts to re­duce them. Canada has less wig­gle room now, even as it strug­gles to im­ple­ment the gen­eral prom­ises from Paris.

Mr. Trudeau is deal­ing with a num­ber of set­backs. His car­bon pric­ing plan is fac­ing court chal­lenges by four prov­inces, and three pipe­line projects to get Al­berta oil to mar­kets have been scut­tled. And what are the so­lu­tions to this cri­sis for Rachel Not­ley, the des­per­ate Al­berta premier who faces an elec­tion early next year? She is talk­ing about build­ing a ma­jor re­fin­ery in the prov­ince to boost prices but that will add dra­mat­i­cally car­bon emis­sions. She is also float­ing the idea of us­ing thou­sands of rail­way cars to trans­port Al­berta oil – a more dan­ger­ous threat to the en­vi­ron­ment than any pipe­line.

A re­cent UN re­port that cli­mate change is hap­pen­ing more rapidly than first be­lieved and that global tem­per­a­tures are ris­ing far more quickly than first an­tic­i­pated raised the ur­gency level in Poland. It’s es­ti­mated that within 12 years, the Earth will pass the point of no re­turn with­out im­me­di­ate ac­tion to cur­tail green­house gases. A UN re­port says global emis­sions from fos­sil fu­els must be cut in half by 2030 – or else.

The United States helped scut­tle a Ka­tow­ice dec­la­ra­tion that the world must wean it­self away from fos­sil fu­els. The U.S. is send­ing mixed sig­nals, push­ing for more trans­parency in re­port­ing emis­sion cuts while declar­ing it’s in favour of in­creased “clean coal” de­vel­op­ment. The

U.S. signed the Ka­tow­ice agree­ment, even as it in­tends to with­draw from the Paris Ac­cord.

So how will Mr. Trudeau main­tain his sup­port for fos­sil fuel de­vel­op­ment and ful­fil com­mit­ments to Paris and Ka­tow­ice? He knows that a ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans sup­port ef­forts to curb cli­mate change. He also knows that off-shore oil rev­enues are fore­cast to help turn around the strug­gling New­found­land and Labrador econ­omy next year; and that the oil­sands re­main a ma­jor eco­nomic gen­er­a­tor for the coun­try. Oil roy­al­ties and rev­enues pro­vide fed­eral cash for trans­fer and equal­iza­tion pay­ments. What will re­place them?

Some key cli­mate change de­ci­sions were de­layed in Poland – by at least a year – which might buy the prime min­is­ter enough time to get through an elec­tion next Oc­to­ber; and be­fore the “thou­sand lit­tle steps for­ward” in Ka­tow­ice are jeop­ar­dized by tru­cu­lent Cana­dian pre­miers in­tent on re­vers­ing pro­gres­sive car­bon pric­ing ad­vances.

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