Canada’s fossil fuel subsidies amount to $1,650 per Canadian. It’s got to stop.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vow to phase out ‘inefficient’ subsidies for coal, oil and gas still hasn’t happened — despite the escalating costs of the climate emergency

Alberta's oilsands North of Fort McMurray.

According to a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, Canada subsidized the fossil fuel industry to the tune of almost $60 billion in 2015 — approximately $1,650 per Canadian.

Yet subsidizing one of the world’s wealthiest industries is folly.

Such subsidies not only hurt Canadian taxpayers and the economy — they also exacerbate the climate emergency.

Indeed, the G20 countries have already agreed that subsidizing fossil fuels is irrational in a warming world — and have called for action to eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that distort markets.

The problem is that subsidies encourage the production and wasteful consumption of fossil fuels all while impeding the shift to cleaner renewables.

For these reasons, during the last election campaign Justin Trudeau sensibly committed to “phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

The problem is that government has not yet delivered on this promise.

A new 2019 report by Canada’s Auditor General reveals government’s review of such subsidies is “incomplete and not rigorous,” is “not based on all relevant and reliable information” and “did not consider economic, social and environmental sustainability over the long term.”

Canada continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industry in myriad ways. First, it provides tax breaks under the federal Income Tax Act. For example, in 2015 the federal government introduced a new accelerated depreciation rate for equipment used in LNG facilities, which was a change proposed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Encana gas wellA natural gas well pad with numerous wells for fracking near Farmington, B.C. The LNG industry in British Columbia is the recipient of numerous tax breaks and exemptions. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

Second, government provides funding to the fossil fuel industry at favourable rates through direct financing and loan guarantees. A recent example is Export Development Canada’s administration of a nearly $5 billion loan to support the government’s controversial purchase and operation of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Ottawa has no plan to recoup that principal cost from industry — and is also subsidizing half the interest expense with taxpayer dollars.

Third, Canada provides direct funding to the fossil fuel industry through research, development and other services provided by federal agencies.

For example, the federal government is paying $1.5 billion for the Oceans Protection Plan, an initiative to safeguard bitumen transport through the Port of Vancouver. This plan was necessitated by new oil tanker traffic — and should be paid for by oil shippers.

Justin Trudeau Trans Mountain Oceans Protection PlanPrime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Victoria in April of 2018 to reiterate the federal government’s support for the Trans Mountain pipeline and commitment to the Oceans Protection Plan. Photo: Carol Linnitt / The Narwhal

Finally, there is the $60 billion subsidy that the IMF focused on — the “social costs” of carbon that governments pay, instead of fuel producers.

Lacking adequate carbon taxes, governments continue to pick up the tab for the impacts of climate change — for example, repairing damage from extreme weather events, building new levees, sea walls and storm sewers and paying for wildfire control and increased health costs.  MORE

 

Youth Activists Tell Washington “We’re Coming for You” on Climate Change


Sabirah Mahmud speaks at the Philadelphia Youth Climate Strike in March 2019.YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE

This crisis will take away our ability to live unless we do something,” Sabirah Mahmud, a 16-year-old youth climate organizer, told me earlier this month.

I had invited Mahmud — the Pennsylvania director for Youth Climate Strike, a national youth-led organization committed to climate justice for marginalized communities in the U.S. and globally — to share her thoughts on the climate crisis. As we sat together on a shaded patio in West Philadelphia in the muggy September weather, Mahmud turned to me with a look of determination on her face and explained why youth leadership is essential for the climate justice movement.

“We have a right to a future, and now that future is in jeopardy,” she told me. “We have all of these big dreams and we are always being asked: ‘What do you want to do in the future?’ I can’t have a response to that question because of this crisis. I don’t even know if we will have a future or what kind of future that will be.”

Alongside Mahmud are hundreds of other youth climate organizers in Pennsylvania who are striking from school as part of Fridays for Future, taking to the streets in acts of dissent against the fossil fuel industry, developing protest art, educating the public, and demanding decision-making power in domestic and international deliberations about the fate of the planet.

Reil Abashera, a 16-year-old high school student and resident of Philadelphia, decided to join the struggle when she learned of the scientific reality of the climate crisis and understood the urgency of this moment.

“We don’t have 10 years to turn things around,” Abashera told me. “We have 18 months.”

The fact that these conversations are taking place in Philadelphia is not insignificant. The “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection” has a long history of environmental racism that goes hand in hand with its history of state violence against Black people, disinvestment in public education, the criminalization of poverty and the segregation of communities of color. According to the Public Interest Law Center, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in the city have long been disproportionately impacted by air pollution from oil and gas operations. This air pollution has resulted in increased rates of childhood asthma, cancer, depression and schizophrenia for many Philadelphians. As recently as July 2019, Philadelphia’s City Council approved the construction of a $60 million LNG plant in South Philadelphia — a section of the city already heavily impacted by environmental toxins. Mahmud and her peers, along with youth organizers from the Sunrise Movement, were actively involved in the fight against the LNG plant. They took part in street demonstrations, elevated dissenting voices from South Philadelphia, and attended public consultations organized by the city government. MORE

Jagmeet Singh’s call for fossil fuels ban leapfrogs the Leap Manifesto

“The NDP is coming late to the issue of dealing comprehensively with climate change. Can it compete effectively with Elizabeth May’s Greens on this front? We shall see.” – Thomas Walkom

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on May 7 in Ottawa. “The NDP is coming late to the issue of dealing comprehensively with climate change. Can it compete effectively with Elizabeth May’s Greens on this front?” asks Thomas Walkom.
Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats have discovered climate change. 

The party had been reluctant to take too uncompromising a stand on global warming for fear of alienating potential voters. That reluctance has gone.

Now the NDP is calling for an end to the entire fossil-fuel industry in Canada.

“The future of our country cannot involve fracking,” Singh said Monday in Ottawa, referring to a controversial method of drilling for oil and natural gas. “It cannot involve the burning of any fossil fuel.”

He said Canada must adhere to carbon reduction targets that are much stricter than those proposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government if it to seriously fight climate change.

And he declared that he now opposes ambitious plans by British Columbia’s NDP government to build a massive liquefied natural gas project in the province’s north.

[In the past] the Leap Manifesto’s call to ban any new fossil-fuel energy projects, from pipelines to fracking, was seen as too radical. No more. Now, with his call for a Canada free of fossil fuels, Singh has outleapt the Leapers. MORE

 

Hope for the Haisla: Managing wealth instead of poverty

Reconciliation is the most important challenge facing Canadians. It’s important to understand the many challenges facing First Nations trying to reconcile development and environmental sustainability.


Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith, shown here in Kitamaat Village, B.C. on March 9, 2019, has endured threats over her support for Coastal GasLink’s natural gas project. Photo by Brandi Morin

Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith has been called a “traitor” and faced threats on social media, warned not to go anywhere alone at a recent First Nation sporting event.

Smith says she comes from “a long, long line of strong female leaders” in the matriarchal Haisla Nation and has the support of her community against threats, most from outside of Kitamaat Village, B.C. in the Pacific Northwest. The promise of a brighter future keeps her going. She’s never been prouder to be a Haisla Nation member.

The attacks stem from the Haisla Nation signing mutual benefit agreements in 2018 with LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink. Coastal GasLink is the name of the pipeline project that would feed natural gas to an LNG Canada facility, within Haisla territory, where it would be liquefied and shipped overseas. It’s a partnership that will provide extensive economic benefits to the tiny coastal tribe of 1,800 with 800 living on reserve.

The Haisla are working with the companies to build a processing plant of their own called Cedar LNG.

The Haisla aren’t worried about the potential threats to the water, marine life or other environmental effects like many opponents of the project. Smith said they’ve done their due diligence. Following years of negotiations and 86 meetings with Coastal Gas Link, the Haisla decided to get on board. Twenty First Nations have signed project agreements with Coastal GasLink. MORE

We asked Jagmeet Singh about his support for one pipeline and his opposition to another


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in full campaign mode on Sat. Jan. 19, as he got the backing of some star power in the middle of a byelection campaign in the Vancouver region.

Jagmeet Singh answers questions about why he expressed his support for the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline, while he opposes the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and tanker expansion project. Singh was campaigning in Burnaby on Jan. 19, 2019. Video by Michael Ruffolo

 MORE

Glavin: Pipeline protests – how politicians got it all wrong


Alex Spence, centre, who is originally from Haida Gwaii, beats a drum and sings during a march in support of pipeline protesters in northwestern British Columbia, in Vancouver, on Tuesday. DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

There may be no right way to do fossil-fuel megaprojects at all anymore if we’re going to have a hope in hell of meeting our 2015 Paris Climate Accord commitments, but as far as the massive LNG Canada Kitimat plant and pipeline project goes – with the showdown this week on a remote British Columbia backroad that immediately escalated into protests and marches and sit-ins across the country – the politics, promises and planning seem to have gotten just about everything wrong.

It’s the aboriginal rights and title of the Wet’suewet’en people that are at stake here, and that’s the subject that the federal Liberal government, and B.C.’s NDP government, are trying to avoid.

You could start with the way Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cheered LNG Canada’s announcement last October that the green light LNG got from B.C’s NDP government meant full steam ahead for its long-planned $40 billion project, which is to include a new pipeline from Dawson Creek in the Peace River country to a liquifaction plant and export facility at Kitimat on the B.C. coast. MORE

CleanBC vs LNG. Here’s the ‘missing chart’ that explains the gap

Image result for BC Premier John Horgan at the unveiling of BC's new climate plan
From right: BC Premier John Horgan at the unveiling of BC’s new climate plan with Environment Minister George Heyman, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall (with new baby Zavier) on Dec. 5, 2018. Photo by Michael Ruffolo

The British Columbia government has recently made two big decisions that are pulling the province in opposite directions in the climate fight — approving LNG Canada and rolling out the new CleanBC climate plan.

The LNG Canada project is massive. It will sprawl from new fracked gas wells in northern B.C., across the coast mountains via the hotly-contested, 650 km “Coastal GasLink” pipeline, to a new liquefaction terminal in Kitimat. From there, the gas will be loaded onto supertankers and shipped to Asia. The LNG terminal is designed to be built in two phases, each of which will produce 13 million tonnes of liquid natural gas. The first phase is now going ahead.

If both phases get built it will become the “biggest capital project in B.C. history.” And probably the most climate polluting as well, with projections for up to 10 million tonnes of climate pollution (MtCO2) per year. For scale, that’s more than the emissions from all passenger cars, trucks and SUVs in the province today. MORE