This week in Ottawa, there were two big climate announcements that are so contradictory they make me want to laugh. But there’s nothing funny about giving hard-earned taxpayer money to big oil companies.

On Monday, in what can only confuse the issue: “The House of Commons has passed a motion declaring a national climate emergency, and supporting Canada’s commitment to meet the Paris Agreement emissions targets.

Conservative MPs voted against the motion, but it still passed 186-63 with the support of the Liberals, New Democrats, Bloc Quebecois and Green MPs. The motion was put forward by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna.”

Good news on its own. It would be a day to celebrate if the declaration weren’t passed shortly before the Liberal government also approved (again) moving forward with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, that will increase tanker traffic on the ocean and export dirty bitumen.

The single biggest way to battle the climate crisis is to move away from using dirty oil and transition to 100% renewable energy, while getting super energy efficient. Declaring a climate crisis and then approving a pipeline that will triple the flow of oil across BC from Alberta is contradictory. Never mind that the federal government says it will invest its revenue from the pipeline into clean energy. They could have done that with the billions of taxpayer dollars, from people like you, that they used to buy the pipeline project. They could also right away stop giving big oil companies tax breaks and other subsidies and let clean energy compete on the market fairly.

I want to feel something positive about passing a climate emergency declaration, but if the calculation is that a symbolic act of saying there’s a climate emergency will counter the expansion of oil coming out of the ground and being shipped across the ocean on giant tankers, the calculation doesn’t add up. A pipeline infrastructure expansion is pretty darn permanent and will undoubtedly increase Canada’s carbon pollution. A declaration of a climate emergency can be taken back and trashed by politics. It doesn’t have the staying power the way pipeline infrastructure development does to get more oil out of the ground.

I would be laughing about this if the consequences weren’t so dire. It’s so dry already where I live and I’m afraid for what kind of wildfire season we’re going to have this year in BC. We can’t afford to increase our carbon pollution, we can’t afford to increase our tanker traffic in the ocean, and we can’t afford to risk oil spills along the way.

We also can’t stand by and continue to let Indigenous People have pipelines expanded across their traditional territories without their consent. Saying truth and reconciliation are important then planning pipelines across Indigenous land without their consent is simply not truth and reconciliation.

This reminds me that we need to keep building people power to stand up for a cleaner and safer country, province and healthier communities. Two things you can do right now:

  1. Send Justin Trudeau a message to remind him there really is a climate emergency, and declaring the climate crisis while approving this pipeline is hypocrisy that will be on your mind when you vote this fall in the federal election.
  2. Tell your city or local government you support the transition off of dirty oil, and onto 100% renewable energy throughout the community by mid-century to avoid the worst of the climate crisis, so we can make sure we’re doing all we can in our own backyards.

I still have hope, even when I hear such ridiculous and contradictory announcements from Ottawa. I have that hope because people power around the region, province and country is shifting conversations to include the climate crisis everyday in the mainstream. And I have hope because cities around the world are transitioning to 100% renewable energy, including right here in the West Kootenays. Regardless of what national governments are doing or are not doing, we are cutting down our carbon pollution and building healthier, safer and stronger communities and economies at home.

Read more:

National climate emergency declaration
Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
Indigenous leaders on pipeline expansion


By Montana Burgess