Exporting Disaster

Greenpeace volunteers put their skates on the ice to protest and resist the building of more tarsands pipelines: because exporting millions more barrels of bitumen means exporting climate change disaster to the world.

We often hear in response to this kind of action the quaint notion that going ahead with these oil infrastructure projects will somehow "help the economy"; it's an almost knee-jerk response to our suggestion that the carbon-dense tarsands product be left in the ground instead of facilitating its combustion by sending it overseas, and so aiding and abetting the already catastrophic conditions in many parts of the world.

Rising seas, dying coral reefs, wildfires and floods: if the symptoms of climate change are not just a cynical spectator sport, why are more Canadians not demanding faster action on the move up to low-carbon energy sourcing? Has the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 lulled us into misplaced confidence that the problem is taken care of? Or has the popular, but false concept that Canada does not generate enough GHG's for us to seriously worry about our contribution to global warming, given us leave to "let someone else fix it"?

If, as reported daily in the international media, the trans-national fossil hydrocarbon corporations are now in serious trouble because of debt, falling demand, carbon pricing, and unexpectedly stiff competition from the sustainable energy sector, why do so many in this country persist in believing the fairy tale that expanding the tarsands operations and building more pipelines will help ordinary Canadians cope with unemployment and their own debt?

Part of the reason, as was stated by a contributor at the National Energy Board Modernization Expert Panel Open House, in Gatineau, on the evening of 22 February, is that the accurate and thorough data needed to assess energy projects and their relation to climate, in terms of economics and Canadian's societal needs, is no longer being generated in this country, due to the methodical dismantling of the relevant science agenda and the cutting of research budgets under successive federal governments.

Because the expertise of these scientists who used to work for us is now largely absent, our media is unable to examine critically the spin oil industries put on their projects and their prospects in the context of the global climate crisis or the accelerating low-carbon energy revolution.

The meeting in Gatineau was one of a series taking place across Canada. The purpose of which is to hear from the public ideas on how to restore the NEB as a viable and respected national energy regulator. Anyone may contribute comments on the subject to the NEB's website, up until the end of March, 2017.

Some suggestions made by the Ottawa-Gatineau Local Group at this meeting:

1. Project reviews must be aligned with greenhouse gas emissions targets limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and include all emissions, upstream and downstream, during the oourse of each projects lifetime.

2.Any disconnect between externalities generated by energy projects and both economic and ecological fitness must be eliminated.

3. Full participation of the public must be accomodated, and information made freely available.

4. Interaction of the National Energy Board with First Nations, Metis and Inuit nations must be in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

5. Energy data used must be independent of industry data; it must include climate science data of uncompromisable quality.

6. The link between climate change and energy use must be legislated in the National Energy Board Act.

7. The National Energy Board must be able to make decisions free of bias, and must avoid all conflict of interest, and must allow its members residence in locales other than Calgary.

As Ronald Wright said in his Massey Lectures, "Now is our last chance to get the future right."

Dave Beddoe, Volunteer, Greenpeace Ottawa-Gatineau Local Group