Time to Face Facts on Canada’s Climate ‘Leadership’

Oil sands executives and Canadian politicians are polishing their pitches to congressmen now that the moment of truth is at hand for the Keystone XL project.  Their biggest challenge: trying to explain how Keystone XL could be both crucial to North America’s oil industry and not likely to induce further development and carbon emissions.
Among those speaking with American legislators is Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who is making some troublingly inaccurate statements. In the Globe and Mail on March 6, 2013,  he opines that “Canada is a global environmental leader…and yes, that includes the oil sands.”  It’s an unexpected and untrue description of the country that has won almost every ‘Fossil of the Year Award’ at recent UN climate change conferences.
Canada’s poor record on climate change includes abandoning the Kyoto protocol in 2012, which drew criticism from around the globe.  Canada is also far from being on track to meet even the modest emissions reductions targets set for 2020, and recent omnibus bills have rolled back decades of progress by taking the teeth out of our environmental laws.
Even worse than these failures is the systemic silencing of important voices calling for action on climate change and the economy. The loss of funding for the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and the severe restrictions on communications from government scientists are deeply disturbing. This ensures that a mature, informed debate on climate change is almost impossible.
Mr. Oliver’s Keystone pitch is rife with the kind of inaccuracies that could be avoided with a solid scientific base and strong dialogue on these issues.  He recently reassured the Business Council of British Columbia that diluted bitumen (or dilbit) floats, based on the 2007 Burrard inlet spill – a surprising interpretation, since the spill was not actually of dilbit.  And in a recent interview with CBC’s Evan Solomon, Mr. Oliver assured viewers they would be able to drink from tailings ponds once they had been cleaned up.  Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board remains unconvinced that so-called ‘end pit lakes’ will be a suitable end land use, much less that the water will be drinkable.  He also claimed that that the oil sands land will be restored to its pre-development condition, when the science shows that the post-industrial landscape will bear little resemblance to its original state.
© Dave Burkhart/ WWF-Canada
Outlandish environmental assurances that boldly go where no facts have gone before are intensely alarming.  They quash or skew important discussions that will affect our future as a country and as a planet.  Decisions about major infrastructure investments that will encourage increased oil sands production must not be taken lightly.  If Canada  is to have any chance at meeting even the lowest targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, these projects must be addressed in that context, and considered alongside opportunities for renewable energy investments.
All of these issues need to be dealt with in a national energy strategy – a strategy that deals with the truth on climate change.  The absence of a Canadian energy and climate strategy is risky for Canada’s economy and credibility, as well as our legacy and future.  It’s time for our government to accept that being an energy superpower means being a climate leader and to act accordingly.  That starts with facing the facts.
This Earth Hour, tell the Government of Canada that you want Canada to face facts and become a true environmental leader.  Tweet:
@joeoliver1 Face facts and make Canada a true environmental leader! Take climate action now! https://wwf.ca/?p=15323 #earthhour
@joeoliver1 Being an energy superpower means being a true climate leader. Take action now. https://wwf.ca/?p=15323 #earthhour
@joeoliver1 To be a real energy leader we need real climate progress. Face facts and take action now. https://wwf.ca/?p=15323 #earthhour