Open thread: Trudeau on climate

Now that he has been elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau is going to have to make some crucial decisions on climate: how much fossil fuel infrastructure he will allow (including for export); the degree to which he will promote zero-carbon energy; whether he will establish a price on carbon; how he will engage internationally; etc.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

44 thoughts on “Open thread: Trudeau on climate”

  1. Friends,

    Just over four years ago, we were getting ready for the Washington protests that helped accelerate the Keystone pipeline fight. A week out I was nervous but excited — I knew that our movement was ready to take a new step. And that’s how it turned out: enough people showed up outside the White House to constitute the country’s biggest civil disobedience action in a long time. It got the ball rolling.

    Now you’ve got the same chance in Canada. In the wake of the sweeping Liberal victory, it’s time to welcome the new government to office—and make sure that they realize there’s no time to waste. Climate Welcome is a reminder that unless the tar sands stops expanding, Canada simply can’t play a constructive role in solving the world’s climate problems.

    The movement has matured a lot since those days four years ago. It’s broad and diverse, led by First Nations and frontline communities, and part of a wider social movement for change. That’s why, at this action, people won’t just be sitting in – but delivering gifts that tell a powerful story of the kind of bold action the world needs Canada to take on climate change.

    On the first day, they’ll be bringing scientific reports, economic studies and documentation of treaty violations to show the clear case for freezing tar sands expansion. On the second day, they’ll carry all of our voices – the hundreds of thousands of us that have signed petitions or sent messages opposing dangerous, unnecessary pipeline and tar sands expansion. On the third day, people from all across Canada are joining both in person and in spirit as people deliver water from the rivers, lakes and shorelines put at risk by tar sands, pipelines and tankers. On the last day, they’ll be carrying symbols of the pathway that the world needs Canada to take forwards – solar panels for the new Prime Minister to hook up as he renovates his new home. As well as, among other things, The Leap Manifesto drafted by 350 board member Naomi Klein along with many others.

    And this action comes at just the right moment: heading to Paris, with the fossil fuel industry on the defensive, and with a new government that has yet to set a definitive climate course.

    Those of us south of the border watched with pleasure as Canada began its reboot this month: we know that the world works much better when Canada solves problems instead of causing them. But we also know that even with improved leadership, nothing happens unless people demand it.

    The time to start is now — make sure you join this historical moment in Canada:


    Bill Mckibben

  2. Already adding Climate Change to the name and mandate of the Minister of the Environment is a positive

  3. The Economist recently published a pair of articles about the Trudeau government’s efforts to create Canada’s first real national climate policy:

    Let the haggling begin: With the announcement of a national carbon price, Justin Trudeau opens a new phase of his government

    Canada’s prime minister secures a deal for a national carbon price: He may need more carrots to keep the provinces on his side

    It’s not surprising that they don’t call out the plan as grossly inadequate since, like Trudeau himself, The Economist really hasn’t grasped the full importance of climate change and the need for an aggressive transition away from fossil fuels.

  4. Trudeau welcomes Trump’s Keystone XL decision

    U.S. president approves $8B pipeline project but says it’s still subject to ‘renegotiation of terms by us’

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is strongly in favour of Donald Trump’s decision to green-light the Keystone XL pipeline project, a move he says will be a boon for Canadian jobs and government coffers, and help a hobbled Alberta recover from the steep decline in oil prices.

    Trudeau said he has spoken to the new U.S. president twice, and on both occasions he pressed upon him Canada’s steadfast support for the $8-billion project, which could carry more than 800,000 barrels of Alberta oil a day to refineries in Texas.

    “I reiterated my support for the project. I’ve been on the record for many years supporting [Keystone XL] because it leads to economic growth and good jobs for Albertans,” he told reporters assembled in Calgary for the federal cabinet retreat.

    “We know we can get our resources to market more safely and responsibly while meeting our climate change goals,” he said, adding Premier Rachel Notley’s hard cap on oilsands emissions will ensure Canada meets its reduction targets.

  5. The greatest responsibility of any prime minister is to get our resources to market and yes that includes the oilsands,” the prime minister said in response, while noting he would not abandon his commitment to protecting the environment for future generations.

    At one point, an impassioned Trudeau asked the crowd to raise their hands if they believe in climate change, and virtually everyone in the audience did so.

    “We have to manage the transition off fossil fuels,” Trudeau said, while noting even former prime minister Stephen Harper said the country would have to commit itself to “decarbonization.”

    Trudeau championed his government’s approval of two major pipeline projects, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain and Enbridge’s Line 3, comments which were met with the loudest applause from the audience.

  6. A historic moment for B.C. politics – and our environment

    The governing agreement between the NDP and Green Party represents a historic moment in British Columbia politics. It anticipates not only the first minority government in the province in 65 years, but also the first government in Canadian history predicated on support from the Greens. The two parties’ commitment to proportional representation could yield even more dramatic and lasting changes to the provincial political landscape.

    The agreement also represents a potentially historic moment for the Canadian oil industry and economy. The Greens and NDP’s shared commitment to climate action and opposition to the Trans Mountain expansion project presents both economic and political challenges to the proposed pipeline.

    When the BC Liberal government is defeated in June, as seems inevitable, opposition to the pipeline will no longer be a matter of individual citizens, environmental groups, or even local governments and First Nations, but of a provincial government acting on behalf of all British Columbians.

    At the heart of the Trudeau government’s 2016 climate plan lies a political compromise: a commitment to pursue reductions in Canada’s own greenhouse gas emissions in exchange for expansion of fossil-fuel exports to other countries via new pipelines. The looming NDP-Green partnership in British Columbia reveals both the political fragility of that compromise and the contradiction of climate leadership funded by fossil-fuel development.

  7. On the environment, Mr Trudeau has failed to please green activists while alienating voters in oil-producing provinces. Albertans say new environmental rules for pipelines are the reason TransCanada, an Albertan firm, this month cancelled construction of the proposed Energy East pipeline. They allege that Mr Trudeau is trying to “beggar the west” just like his father Pierre, a prime minister who in 1980 proposed a plan to hold down oil prices.

    In fact, Energy East was doomed by today’s low oil price and by overcapacity. One reason for it is that the government approved another project, an expansion of the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline through British Columbia, which alienated environmentalists. They are not mollified by a plan to impose a national carbon price. Parliament’s environment commissioner chided the government this month for implementing its climate-change policies too slowly.

  8. Paris agreement targets leave ‘alarming gap’ to slow climate change: UN report
    Canada has no immediate plans to raise emission cutting targets, despite UN pressure

    Canada has no immediate plans to raise its targets for cutting emissions, despite pressure from the United Nations to step it up or risk the failure of the Paris climate change agreement.

    In the 2015 Paris accord, 196 countries, including Canada, agreed to set national targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions en route to preventing the planet from warming up more than two degrees Celsius on average compared with pre-industrial levels.

    UN Environment Tuesday released its eighth annual emissions gap report, which says Paris signatories have thus far only committed to one-third of the cuts to emissions that will be required to achieve the goal.

    Canada is one of the biggest laggards, with the UN saying that not only are Canada’s existing targets too low, it does not yet have the policies in place to even meet them. The report calls on Canada and many other developed nations, including the United States, Mexico and the European Union, to step up their planned cuts or there is zero chance of meeting the two degree goal.

    All countries that signed Paris are expected to produce updated targets by 2020 and the UN report says the technology is there for the world to hit the necessary cuts, it just needs the will to do it.

  9. “Canada has committed to achieving cuts to emissions to 30 per cent below what they were in 2005, which means about 523 million tonnes a year. It is at least the fourth time Canada has set an emissions target and thus far has never met one of them.

    If every item in the national climate change framework is completed, Canada will still be more than 40 million tonnes from its 2030 goal.”

  10. Martyn Brown: Justin Trudeau declares war on British Columbia

    “That pipeline is going to get built,” Justin Trudeau has declared on Edmonton’s CHED radio.

    “We will stand by our decision. We will ensure that the Kinder Morgan pipeline gets built.”

    With that, Canada’s prime minister has declared war on British Columbia’s efforts to stop that widely unwanted project, which our provincial government has taken new actions to frustrate, further to its other announced and ongoing efforts.

    In pandering to the all-powerful interests of Big Oil—and to the voters of Alberta—yet another Trudeau has given British Columbians the finger.

    It is an appalling political intervention, aimed at placating the increasingly antsy shareholders of Kinder Morgan and the other wealthy purveyors of dirty fossil fuels, whose industry is choking our planet and threatening our oceans.

    “We can’t be simply trapped in the American market and that’s why getting this pipeline built, which has been waited for a long time, is something that this government is serious about,” Trudeau brayed. The environment, Aboriginal rights and title, and B.C.’s coastal communities be damned.

  11. Ottawa unveils integrity rules to shield scientists from interference

    Releasing scientific information to the public in a timely manner, encouraging discussion around different interpretations of research results, and protecting government labs from political interference – all are bedrock principles of scientific integrity that have now been enshrined in a new set of guidelines for federal departments.

    The model policy, released on Monday, is intended to help departments satisfy new scientific integrity provisions that were included last year in a collective agreement with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the union that represents most of the scientists working in government labs. It was developed in three-party talks between the Treasury Board, public service representatives and the government’s chief science adviser, Mona Nemer.

    “The agreement is that it will apply to all [federal] researchers and scientists whether or not they are members of the union,” Dr. Nemer said.

    The document covers matters of transparency, the ethical conduct of research and freedom from political and other forms of interference, as well as mechanisms for dealing with breaches of scientific integrity. It also includes the right of scientists to speak openly about their research without the pre-approval of government minders – a contentious issue when Stephen Harper was prime minister and political staffers routinely stepped in to prevent or delay communication between scientists and journalists.

  12. “Prime Minister Trudeau had permission to redo the review and he squandered it. His broken promise and litany of fraudulent excuses that followed have not only failed all of us—whether we are against or in favour of the pipeline—he has miserably betrayed himself.

    The prime minister participated in the disintegration of his integrity by adopting an elaborate fiction about the economic benefits of the project and it being in the public interest; about having undertaken proper consultation with First Nations and ensuring marine tanker traffic is safe; about it being a commercially viable infrastructure project and the $4.5 billion purchase price a good deal for Canadian taxpayers.”

  13. Trudeau’s Orwellian logic: We reduce emissions by increasing them


    First, Orwell would note how three previous Canadian prime ministers made dishonest GHG promises. In 1988, Brian Mulroney made a promise for 2000. In 1997, Jean Chretien made a promise for 2010. And in 2007, Stephen Harper made a promise for 2020. But all three failed to immediately implement the regulations and carbon prices necessary to achieve their promises. Independent experts, myself included, noted a decade before each deadline that the promise would not be kept. In 2002, I co-wrote The Cost of Climate Policy, detailing why Mr. Chretien would fail his Kyoto commitment. But he knew this from his own staff.

    Orwell would not need energy expertise to know that emission increases from major industries cannot occur if a prime minister is to keep his promise. Yet all three, and now Mr. Trudeau, have countenanced Alberta’s oil sands expansion, the single biggest reason for missing targets. With oil output growing from one million barrels per day in 2005 to 2.5 million barrels in 2015, Alberta’s contribution to Canada’s emissions increased from 230 to 270 megatonnes of carbon dioxide. And Alberta’s emissions will reach 290 megatonnes by 2030 if projects like Trans Mountain are completed. National studies by independent researchers (including my university-based group) consistently show that Mr. Trudeau’s 2015 Paris promise of a 30-per-cent reduction by 2030 is unachievable with oil sands expansion. His staff know this, so he knows it, too.

    Second, Orwell would note that constitutional experts agree that the Canadian government has the authority to achieve its GHG promises. If Mr. Trudeau fails, he cannot blame unco-operative provinces for his failure. He admitted as much when he told Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall that federal climate policies will apply to every province.

    Thus, the Prime Minister does not need a deal with Alberta for more oil pipelines in order to meet his Paris commitment. He simply needs to quickly apply his federal authority to regulate or price emissions from electricity generation, oil sands, other industries, transportation and buildings. When he does, oil sands output will not grow, and pipeline expansion will not be needed.

    Third, if Orwell consulted experts at any of the internationally renowned institutions assessing how humanity keeps the temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, he would note their unanimous conclusion that oil sands expansion must not occur. Global oil demand must fall from today’s 95 million barrels a day to about 65 million by 2050. As a high-cost, high-emission resource, oil sands will not expand as oil prices fall in a declining oil market.

    Mr. Trudeau and his advisers know that it makes no sense, indeed is economically and socially irresponsible, to build a pipeline today for expanded production that should not occur if we are to prevent devastating climate change. Fostering increased oil sands jobs in Alberta is inconsistent with global climate goals.

  14. David Suzuki fires off from the ‘death zone’ at Trudeau, Weaver and a broken system

    Q: Do you talk at all to the Prime Minister?

    DS: I emailed him after he signed and asked, ‘Are you serious about what you just signed?’ And he emailed back and said, ‘I am very serious.’ We celebrated, we praised him, but the easiest thing to do is sign a document, especially when the end isn’t for years and years. He knows bloody well that he’s not going to be around in 2030. That’s what all politicians do. You can make a flourish and sign and claim but you’re not held accountable. And that’s a problem. We don’t have a way of holding people accountable.

    So when Trudeau approved the pipelines, Kinder Morgan and [Enbridge’s] Line 3, I emailed him and said, ‘You know, you set a hard target of 1.5 degrees. That’s your target. To meet that you know 80 to 85 per cent of those reserves have to be left in the ground. We can’t burn them. Why the hell are you investing in a project that is going to cost billions dollars and then, in order to get your return, that it has to be used for 25 to 30 years? This doesn’t make any sense!’ I said, ‘Why did you run for office? You’re in a position now to do something that is going to affect the future for your children. You’re a father first.’

    And you know what his answer was? He didn’t answer. Up to that point he always answered my emails but he stopped answering them. The problem is, he’s a politician, and he’s a father, but If he wants to play the political game, being a father is irrelevant.

  15. Such single-minded dedication to his cause has made Mr Kenney, who is not a climate-change denier himself but allows them in his United Conservative Party, a formidable opponent to Justin Trudeau, the Liberal prime minister. At stake is the national climate-change plan that Mr Trudeau carefully stitched together in 2016 with eight of Canada’s ten provincial leaders (Saskatchewan and Manitoba held out). Alberta’s signature was crucial because it emits more greenhouse gases than any other province. The intensity of the battle could affect the outcome of a general election in October.

    Taking on five of the ten premiers on any issue would be difficult enough for a Canadian prime minister. But with climate change Mr Trudeau is fighting with one arm tied behind his back. Since coming to power in 2015 he has maintained that Canada can fight global warming while still pumping lots of oil. Hydrocarbons are Canada’s top export. Mr Trudeau says he wants to phase out Alberta’s tar sands eventually, but it is not easy to sit on the fence.

    Greens mourned the federal government’s decision in 2018 to buy the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, which carries oil from Alberta to the west coast. They are still angry about its proposed expansion (the government’s final decision is expected by June 18th). Environmentalists and some indigenous groups are also fighting a new oil pipeline that would pass through Alberta and British Columbia. The federal government has proposed a ban on oil tankers sailing off the northern coast of British Columbia, but it has been held up in parliament by senators.

    A real danger for Mr Trudeau is that the Liberals may lose the youth vote that helped push his party to power in 2015. A rise in the vote share of the Green Party or the New Democrats could split the left. Mr Kenney is planning to lend the federal Conservatives a hand by campaigning in the October election campaign. Mr Trudeau is discovering, like many prime ministers before him, that in an oil-producing country like Canada it is not easy being green.

  16. An important wrap up of what happened here in Madrid this week at the UN climate negotiations. “Catherine Abreu, the lead Canadian watchdogging the UN process, also laid blame for the failure on big polluting countries which “have been able to ruthlessly advance the fossil fuel industry’s profit agenda over our collective futures.”

    “While Canadian negotiators were largely constructive on the ground, Canada has a lot of work to do at home to address the gap between its climate goals and its ongoing commitment to expand the fossil fuel industry, which got a lot of international attention here in Madrid,” said Abreu. She called on Canada’s environment minister to “increase Canada’s climate finance contributions and deliver on his government’s election promise to bring a new, more ambitious Paris pledge to COP26 in 2020.”

  17. UN climate negotiations end in ‘demoralizing, enraging’ failure
    By Chris Hatch in Analysis | December 15th 2019

    A coalition of countries seeking higher ambition were blocked by a group of big polluters insisting on accounting tricks such as “hot air” credits, opposing help for nations suffering the impacts of climate change, and demanding that human rights protections get removed from the main sections of the agreement that COP25 was intended to resolve. One of the main breakdowns centred on Article 6 which covers international accounting for climate pollution and credits between countries. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers along with politicians like Jason Kenney and Andrew Scheer, had been making misleading suggestions that Article 6 could be used to give Canada credit for exports of LNG and other fossil fuels.

  18. The government will not retreat from its plan to raise the floor for the price of carbon from C$30 per tonne of CO2-equivalent emissions to C$50 by 2022. Indeed, it is likely to keep rising. It will have to be C$100 if Canada is to meet its goal of reducing emissions from 2005 levels by 30% by 2030, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office. But the government may find other ways to mollify energy-producing provinces. Bill Morneau, the finance minister, touts as a model a “clean resource innovation network” of companies, ngos and academic institutions that seeks to reduce environmental damage caused by the oil and gas industry. There is talk of giving direct relief to jobless westerners.

  19. From 2016 to 2019, Canada’s emissions jumped 3.3 per cent, according to a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Corporate Mapping Project, the Parkland Institute,, West Coast Environmental Law, and That’s far more than the United States’ 0.6 per cent growth over that same period, and is a significant failing compared to the other five G7 countries, which managed to curb GHG emissions by 4.4 per cent to 10.8 per cent.

  20. With Bill C-12, the Trudeau government delivers a win on climate change

    There are solid reasons for optimism. The act lays out target dates in five-year increments, starting with 2030 and looking forward to the net-zero goal of 2050. Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has six months, starting now, to establish an emissions reduction plan that will detail how that first 2030 target will be met. That demands fast work, even if the ministry begs for an allowed 90-day extension.

    Concrete emissions targets are now the law in this land. As with any such legislation, the proof will lie in its implementation. GASP, or the group Grand(m)others Act to Save the Planet, says it is pleasing to see the government take this firm step. Now it’s time to shift to emergency mode.

  21. Trudeau broke a key election promise with the new Liberal climate plan. During the election campaign he was hit hard by Jagmeet Singh for having the worst record in the G7 under the Paris Accord. To help get out of the bind, Trudeau swore there’d be a “hard cap,” an absolute limit, on GHG production in the oil and gas sector. That has proven false, and Guilbeault was stuck saying we’ll get to it some time in the future . Now the other shoe is about to drop with the approval of Bay du Nord.

    Last Friday, Steven Guilbeault was greeted by young people screaming at him about Bay du Nord. When he became Environment Minister, I’d joked with him that he’d better get prepared for the day when environmentalists would protest him. He chuckled because he knew it was inevitable.

    What’s not inevitable is approving a project that can only worsen climate change.

  22. The problem is this. While the federal government has chosen the low end of its legally-binding 2030 emissions reduction target, even that scaled-back ambition will fail because of Premier Doug Ford’s obstruction.

    It may have been inevitable in Canada’s federal-provincial system, but the plan hands Ontario the role of climate spoiler. Ford’s refusal to act on the climate emergency will put the brakes on whatever limited climate momentum there is in Ottawa. The evidence is buried in the fine print and the appendices of the ERP, in particular Annex 5 and the short section on Ontario.

    The Annex notes that: “All provinces and sectors contribute to achieving the emissions reductions underlying the Emissions Reduction Plan.” The assumption behind the plan is that Ontario’s contribution will be very significant, almost a third of all the anticipated reduction from Canada’s provinces and territories. And the largest reduction of any province or territory.

    According to the Emissions Reduction Plan, Ontario is projected to reduce its emissions by 36% between 2005 and 2030, even though the Ontario government has only committed to reducing emissions by 30%. When it comes to climate ambition, that is a huge gap.

    The report also assumes that between 2019, a year after Ford was elected, and 2030, Ontario will reduce emissions by 31 Mt. Here again, there is a huge discrepancy.

    That’s because Ford’s Ontario has no plans to reduce emissions by that amount. It has no intention of even trying. The Ford government’s climate plan, at its most ambitious, targeted only 17.6 Mt of GHG emissions for elimination by 2030. And there is overwhelming evidence the government isn’t making the effort to achieve that small amount.

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