Talking pipelines and climate change
By Chad Ingram
Published Jan. 5, 2017
Political economy professor Dr. Gordon Laxer says the Canadian government is missing the mark with the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth, doing a poor job at curbing carbon emissions and that Canada could be left in a “fossil fuel backwater” unless serious changes are made.
Laxer, who taught at the University of Alberta for three decades and was the founding director of the school’s Parkland Institute, will speak at Environment Haliburton’s next Enviro-Cafe event at the Minden United Church on Tuesday, Jan. 10.
He criticizes the Trudeau government for not strengthening the greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets established by the Harper government in 2015, something the Liberals implied they would do during the 2015 election campaign.
“But now they’ve stuck with these pathetic targets,” says Laxer, whose latest book is entitled After the Sands: Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians. “Canada’s already punching above its weight in a bad way.”
He says the framework doesn’t do enough to demand reduced emissions from the oil and gas sector, which he points out is the leading source of carbon emissions in the country, more than electricity production or transportation, for instance.
“What the Pan-Canada plan is about is going after the small fish and kind of letting the big fish go,” Laxer says, adding that Ottawa has adopted policies that are friendly towards the oil industry.
“Ottawa endorsed the Alberta government’s oil-friendly plan,” he says. “It really is big oil’s plan.”
According to Laxer, it’s impossible for Canada to achieve the commitments it made with the recent Paris Agreement and continue the operation of the Alberta oil sands.
“It’s not possible,” he says. “You can’t do both. Canada’s going to end up buying emissions from abroad.”
Laxer says the Alberta oil sands should be shut down within the next 15 years and that Canada needs to take a stronger stance on conservation and energy security.
“If we fail to do that here, Canada will be left in a fossil fuel backwater,” he says.
He points to countries such as Sweden and Norway, which, like Canada, have cold climates and sparse populations. However, Swedes and Norwegians use a third to half as much fossil fuel as Canadians, on a per capita basis.
“And Norway lives on the export of oil,” he says, adding that hasn’t stopped the country from adopting policies that will phase out the sale of gas-powered automobiles by 2025.
“With today’s technology, it is possible to do this,” Laxer says. “There are things we can do here.”