Project puts Canada’s climate and biodiversity goals, long-term economic prosperity and Indigenous reconciliation efforts at risk
VANCOUVER — The federal government’s decision today to purchase Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project for $4.5 billion ignores major risks to the long-term well-being of everyone in Canada. The government announced plans to purchase the existing pipeline infrastructure and build the pipeline expansion, then sell it later, assuming it can find a buyer.
“Regardless of who builds it, the environmental, economic, climate and Indigenous rights risks remain the same,” David Suzuki Foundation CEO Steve Cornish said. “We have an opportunity to diversify from fossil fuels into a clean energy economy, but this decision jeopardizes our success. It’s a risky time to spend public dollars on carbon-intensive energy when the rest of the world is prioritizing cleaner energy sources.”
Major cities, universities, pension funds and financial institutions have divested more than $6 trillion globally from fossil fuels, to be reinvested in renewable energy, clean technologies and other sectors that create more jobs per dollar invested.
“These sectors will drive the future economy and can create well-paid jobs everywhere in Canada,” Foundation director-general for Quebec and Atlantic Canada Karel Mayrand said. “As we choose where to invest, we must look to the future, not the past.”
The project also puts Canada’s international Paris Climate Accord commitments at risk. To expand oil and gas production via the pipeline and also meet greenhouse gas reduction targets would require the rest of Canada’s economy to reduce emissions by 49 per cent by 2030 and 85 per cent by 2040, a feat almost certainly impossible in the available timeframe.
“Canada can have a stronger future, but only if we transition into a just and sustainable clean energy economy together,” Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce said. “We need to invest in future generations of skilled workers, by modernizing our economy and seizing Canada’s unparalleled opportunity to be a global leader in renewable energy.”
The National Energy Board’s project review did not assess the effects of a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic on the region’s 76 remaining critically endangered orcas. The Salish Sea’s southern resident orcas are endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, and the tanker route transects critical habitat they need to survive and recover. The pipeline would cross more than 500 streams in the Fraser River watershed, one of the world’s greatest salmon-producing rivers, threatening already depleted salmon stocks, including chinook, which are critically important for orcas.
“Sound science is the best driver of smart policy. Unfortunately, this project was never based on sound science,” Foundation director-general for B.C. and Western Canada Jay Ritchlin said.
Scientific reviews also highlight serious knowledge gaps around the effects of bitumen in the marine environment. British Columbians are concerned the risk to the coast from oil spills is far too high and would bring environmental devastation and unacceptable economic losses to tourism and other marine industries. The best responses remove just 10 to 15 per cent of spilled oil.
Several Indigenous nations have taken the government to court, arguing the NEB approval process did not consult them as required by Canadian law, a claim that has been recently corroborated by Canadian media. First Nations would endure the project’s worst environmental impacts, including possible bitumen spills. Of the more than 130 First Nations that could be affected, just 43 have signed benefit agreements.
“Given that Indigenous reconciliation is crucial to Canada’s future and the engagement process has been flawed at best, this ill-advised decision violates the spirit of Canada’s duty to consult in good faith and falls afoul of recently ratified UN standards,” Ritchlin said. “We can only remain optimistic that with all the current court cases still open, this project remains far from certain.”
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