Oil giants chipped in $180,000 to help Canada’s energy ministers have “unbiased” discussions about our energy future.
Energy ministers from across Canada have just returned from an all-expenses-paid tour of the tar sands, given to them by the oil companies themselves. Now, they are sitting down to debate the future of energy policy in Canada at a meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta. This is the face of climate corruption in Canada.
Canada is at a crossroads, and it appears that our leadership has been seriously compromised. While much of the world is investing heavily in the clean, safe, and reliable energy of our future, the Canadian government, along with some provincial support, is insisting that Canada watch from the sidelines while we cling desperately to a resource that is responsible for creating the greatest challenge of our time. I am, of course, talking about fossil fuels and global climate change.
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In what can only be called an outrageous conflict of interests, oil companies are footing nearly a third of the bill for the Kananaskis conference while they lead the ministers on a tour around the tar sands. With the majority of the amount coming from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, followed by the Oil Sands Developers Group and companies like Shell and Enbridge, these oil giants are chipping in $180,000 so that our elected officials can have “unbiased” conversations about the energy future of our country, our health, and our shared climate.
Government officials have said that this donation is in no way buying influence or access, but when was the last time you saw Greenpeace giving 10-or-so energy ministers a tour of the tar sands? The ministers have been tasked with discussing possible paths forward for a shared national energy strategy. If done well, this could be a promising step forward for our clean-energy future. On the other hand, if the event’s sponsors – the oil companies – get what they’re hoping for, this will be nothing more than a rubber stamp for high-risk projects that will expand Canada’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse-gas pollution even further.
If left unchecked, the Alberta tar sands will account for 95 per cent of the growth in Canada’s industrial greenhouse-gas pollution by the year 2020. Alberta is the only industrialized jurisdiction in the world that has a climate-change plan that would see emissions increasing through 2020. In other words, even if every other province in Canada enforced ambitious greenhouse-gas pollution reductions, Canada would still be unable to achieve what science tells us is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change – all thanks to the tar sands.
Unfortunately, this is just a blatant example of the much broader reality that the fossil-fuel industry is in the driver’s seat when it comes to taking action on climate change in Canada. This perverse relationship has reverberated throughout our international relations and made us, in many ways, the global symbol for inaction on climate change and addiction to dirty oil.
Canada is also now the only country in the industrialized world that has allowed its only federal program aimed at supporting renewable energy to run out of money. And, to add insult to injury, the federal government has teamed up with the oil industry and the Government of Alberta to attack clean-energy policies in other countries in order to protect the short-term interests of the oil industry.
Countries around the world have shared this dangerous addiction to oil, coal, and gas, but science, reason, and the impacts of climate change have driven many of us towards a desire for a cleaner, safer future. We know the problem (our addiction to oil), the solution (quitting oil and seriously ramping up renewable energy), and the consequences (millions of people, species, and ecosystems are already feeling the impacts of climate change). The defining leaders of this century are going to be the ones who take the problem seriously.
Instead of representing the majority of Canadians who overwhelmingly want to see strong action on climate change, our federal government chooses to represent the interests of some of the richest companies in the world. This needs to change.
We know what we need to do. Oil, coal, and gas are damaging the planet and causing loss of life and species extinction – and, unless we do something, it is going to get even worse. The solution is obvious: We start the process of phasing out fossil fuels and make major investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. There is still time to act.
When energy and mining ministers leave the meeting in Kananaskis and present their communiqués, we will get a pretty good idea of who was in control of this meeting. Energy ministers should not be taking all-expenses-paid tours of climate crimes like the tar sands. This is a form of corruption, and we should demand better. Our energy ministers have a choice to make in Kananaskis. Let’s hope that they send a clear signal to the world that Canadians are committed to establishing a future of energy that is safe and clean, and that lays the foundation for the future Canadians deserve.