Local Federal Greens

Mission Possible and the Tar Sands


1) Elizabeth May’s statement to CBC Radio’s As it Happens in reply criticisms of the proposal about the Tar Sands in Mission Possible (May 2019)

We do not call for building new refineries. We do not suggest oil sands oil be used in Quebec. We do call for Canadian oil to be used in Canada. We call for an end to foreign imports from Saudi Arabia, the US, Nigeria and a handful of other sources. 

For Quebec, it would mean stopping the importation of North Dakotan Bakken shale, the source of much of what Quebec currently refines. It is not only the most dangerous oil to move by rail, as we witnessed in the horrors of Lac Megantic, but it is also among the very worst in the world in terms of its GHG impact. Bakken shale is fracked oil. It releases GHG, far more than conventional oil as it typically involves flaring, releases Black Carbon, a gas called ethane in large amounts reducing air quality, as well as increases in fugitive emissions of methane. It may not be well-known in Quebec that Bakken shale’s carbon footprint is far worse than most oil, but it would reduce lifecycle GHG for Quebec to cancel imports so that while Quebec phases out fossil fuels it look east to Hibernia oil instead.

The Green Party’s bold plan –  “Mission: Possible” – aims to hold global average temperature to no more than 1.5 degrees C above that before the industrial revolution.  Our survival depends on it.

Mission: Possible calls for a steep cut of greenhouse gases to 60% below 2005 levels by 2030 moving to zero by 2050. This plan inevitably involves a rapid move to 100% renewable electricity, a modernized and enhanced east-west electricity grid, a shift to EV’s, a ramping down of all fossil fuel production, including reducing oil sands production, no fracking, no new exploration or drilling.

The full 20-point plan must be viewed in its entirety. Misstatements and exaggerations have not helped.  And I certainly apologize to Alex for giving him cause for concern. 

2) Detailed explanation by Jeff Wheeldon, Green Party of Canada Candidate for Northumberland-Peterborough South, and Green Party International Affairs Critic (member of Shadow Cabinet) (May 2019)

We released Mission: Possible with a few different goals:

-To lay out a brief and actionable list of steps that must be taken to address climate change, with timelines;

-To emphasize that this is, in fact, possible;

-To set a high bar for the other parties to meet, and put out some ideas for the Pact for a Green New Deal movement.

In the beginning of the document we stated that we commit to matching or surpassing the ambition of the Pact for a Green New Deal and whatever recommendations it sets out; this is to both affirm that we want to set a high bar, but also that the bar has room to go higher – that this isn’t a full platform of fixed policies, but rather a statement of our goals and some paths to get there. In 2030 we may look back and find that we didn’t do many of the things in Mission: Possible, but so long as we meet the goals in emissions reduction, energy transition, and improved economic health, we don’t mind! We’re open to working with other parties, both by challenging them to meet our ambitious standards and by direct cooperation to ensure that these standards are met or exceeded.

Any plan to get us from where we are to where we want to be must take into account where we are, and the reality is that we are an oil-producing nation and that our capacity to produce oil and gas is currently increasing. There have long been general pushes to “leave it in the ground,” but those need to be qualified: does that mean “turning off the tap” tomorrow, as the people in Alberta assume/fear, or does it mean getting every last drop of oil to market as the Conservatives want, or somewhere in between? We have enough oil and gas to last for hundreds of years even at an increasing pace of production, but the IPCC says that we must be decarbonized by 2050. We uphold that timeline. No other measures are as concrete or important. 

We uphold the timeline of being decarbonized by 2050, but that doesn’t mean that we support expanding the oilsands before then, as if we can race to that finish line. Rather, that establishes the point at which we absolutely must be decarbonized, and therefore the end point of an orderly winding-down process – i.e., we support taking action to immediately and progressively reduce oil production and consumption in Canada.

On one hand, we would ban fracking outright, cancelling the LNG project in BC; and we would cancel the completion of the Trans-Mountain pipeline, ensuring that we don’t support an expansion of bitumen exports. This means fewer tankers on the BC coast, too, but it doesn’t shut down the oilsands overnight.

Even with our strategy of major investments into electrifying transportation, including scheduled end dates for the production of internal combustion engines and a date for a complete phase-out of internal combustion engines on our roads, and providing electrified and rail links between municipalities (to complement municipal transit programs), we will still be using oil and gas on a declining basis. That oil and gas will have to come from somewhere, and being an oil and gas producing nation, it makes sense that we should use our own product domestically rather than exporting it as a raw product. This gives us the opportunity to create/sustain jobs in our own industry on a declining basis, as well as adding value to our product – getting the most value from our declining industry without supporting its expansion, and at the same time reducing our dependence on imports.

There are existing pipelines east/west in Canada, and we would not be looking to add to them. We’ve suggested building upgraders in Alberta (and from what I’ve heard there are some private upgraders already underway there) in order to transport oil as light crude rather than diluted bitumen; or to transport it in solid bitumen form by rail. Either way we avoid the worst scenario of diluted bitumen leaking from a pipeline into waterways, which effectively can’t be cleaned up.

In Eastern Canada, which is our chief importer of foreign oil, our plan to reduce demand for oil and gas by electrifying our transport and home heating presents the opportunity to wean off of foreign oil and rely instead on oil produced at the Hibernia oil platform, again on a declining basis as we get nearer to 2050. In all of this, if we are able to reduce demand for oil and gas faster than our proposed timeline then we will absolutely do so!

If there is a more practical and efficient way of winding down the oil and gas industry in Canada, I’d love to hear it. Like Mr Tyrrell, I’d love to leave every last drop in the ground, but while his criticism of our plan has received a lot of attention, his suggestions for alternatives have not. Likewise, NDP critics of our plan have been saying that we support oilsands expansion and that their own plan does not, but the reality is that our plan seems to be the only one that actually addresses how to get off of oil and gas at all. The NDP plan doesn’t mention a ban on fracking, doesn’t give a timeline for decarbonization, and doesn’t seem to address the oilsands much at all; the Liberals have criticized the NDP plan for “killing jobs” in fracking, and they want to build the Trans-Mountain pipeline to increase exports of raw bitumen; and the Conservatives want to increase pipeline capacity in all directions to increase exports and domestic use at the same time. None of those options respect the timeline provided to us by the IPCC and others for getting off of fossil fuels; none of those options plan for an orderly transition from our current oil economy to the new clean energy economy; and none of those options actually envision that new economy, amounting to steps (albeit largely in the right direction) without a clear destination.

We have a vision for the Canada we want to live in. The steps to get us there aren’t set in stone, but the outcomes must be – and whatever the steps look like, it will take actual steps. We can’t jump from the infrastructure and economy that we have to the one that we want. We WILL get to the future, one way or another; we want to ensure that the journey is planned in a way that will actually get us to the more equitable and secure future we need as soon as possible, rather than with a series of costly detours along the way.

I hope that helps explain this part of our policy. I’m happy to talk more and answer any questions others may have; feel free to give out this address for anyone who wants to engage more.

Cheers,

Jeff WHEELDON
International Affairs Critic| Affaires Internationales
Green Party of Canada | Parti Vert du Canada

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