Photo: Proposed energy strategy is not cool

(Credit: lumierefl via Flickr)

By Ian Bruce

Canada's energy ministers like it hot — at least when it comes to global warming.

That's the message in the fine print of the national energy proposal released by federal and provincial energy ministers on July 19 after their petroleum industry-sponsored meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta.

From the public statements the proposal sounded good.

"The world is watching Canada's efforts to develop its energy resources wisely and efficiently," said Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert. "We all have a stake in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through clean energy production. A pan-Canadian approach to energy will involve all Canadians and ensure that we are all starting on the same page as we move forward."

But as one dives into the details of the report, the proposed "sustainable" energy plan for Canada starts to unravel. It then fully blows apart with the underlying assumptions.

To sell Canadians on the idea that our country's energy future should include increased exploitation of oil sands and fossil fuels because global energy projections require them, the proposal uses a convincing graph from the International Energy Agency (IEA), projecting a global increase in demand for fossil fuels.

It failed to mention this growing need for fossil fuels projected by the IEA is based on the worst-case scenario — that governments would not take any further action to address climate change or support clean energy. The IEA predicts that if this emissions-rich worst-case scenario were followed, it would likely result in a massive six degree Celsius increase in the global average temperature. This would surpass by three times the threshold that leading scientists and many governments consider dangerous to crucial ecosystems and the global economy. Hotter global temperature would mean a dramatic increase in heat waves (like the scorcher Toronto is experiencing today with an expected high of 38 degrees Celsius, which will be one of the hottest — if not the hottest day on record), droughts and more extreme weather events like flooding as hotter temperatures destabilize our global climate system.

Not only is this energy proposal for our country misleading, it's reckless. It's like selling Canadians a flashy new sports car and handing over the keys while failing to mention that brakes are not included.

The communiqué accompanying the strategy went so far as to call the oil sands "responsible and sustainable" — a claim that is hard to swallow given the massive emissions and the fact that it takes three barrels of water to produce one barrel of oil.

But a tip of the hat to Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid, who showed commendable leadership by not signing onto the plan because of its lack of support for cleaner and safer sources of energy, and who acknowledged that polluting our rivers and air with the byproducts of oil sands are a far cry from "sustainable" or "responsible" behaviour.

Quebec, B.C. and Manitoba's energy ministers must have missed the fine print, because the strategy directly violates their legally binding laws to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. (The energy strategy even runs counter to the federal government's promise to Canadians and the G8 to reduce global warming emissions.)

We hope that some of the confusion around this strategy and its inconsistency with emissions reduction plans will be cleared up by provincial premiers, who are now meeting in Vancouver for the Council of the Federation (from July 20 to 22).

As Ontario stands and says "no" to catastrophic global warming and "yes" to clean energy, will other premiers follow?

We also remind the energy ministers and premiers that Canada's energy strategy must truly involve all Canadians, and not just the fossil fuel industry folks who sponsored the energy ministers' meeting.

For more info read the Climate Action Network Canada news release.

July 21, 2011

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