Trans Mountain Ruling: Victory for Environmentalists, but a Setback for Action on Climate Change

By Tindall, David; University of British Columbia | The Canadian Press, August 31, 2018 | Go to article overview

Trans Mountain Ruling: Victory for Environmentalists, but a Setback for Action on Climate Change


Tindall, David, University of British Columbia, The Canadian Press


Trans Mountain ruling: Victory for environmentalists, but a setback for action on climate change

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: David Tindall, Professor of Sociology, University of British Columbia

The court ruling that has halted the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has seismic implications to the Canadian socio-political and environmental landscape.

One of the many potential implications of the court's decision is the potential impact on climate change -- and specifically the federal government's carbon pricing plan, which is now in serious trouble after Alberta's decision to withdraw its support as a result of the Trans Mountain delay.

The ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the National Energy Board's (NEB) approval permit of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project because First Nations had not been adequately consulted and because the implications of increased tanker traffic on the precarious orca whale populations on the West Coast had not been taken into account.

While environmentalists can claim a victory in delaying the construction of a pipeline that would ship a further 500,000 barrels of oil each day to the Pacific Coast, the court ruling also threatens Canada's plan to deal adequately with its greenhouse gas emissions.

Focus on oil spills, tankers

I do research and teach on social aspects of climate change. For most environmentalists, climate change is a central concern. But when taking on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, opponents have focused on oil spills and increase tanker traffic because those issues are easier for the general public to understand.

In assessing the Trans Mountain expansion, the NEB was not allowed to consider downstream effects on climate change. Pipeline proponents often point to the notion that Canada's emissions are a small part of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions (about two per cent according to some estimates). This is misleading spin -- and masks Canada's true climate record in a number of ways.

For instance, Canada has only about 0.5 per cent of the world's population, which means its domestic emissions are four times the proportion warranted by its population. Canada's domestic emissions are also more than double the global average on a per capita basis.

Canada won't meet Paris commitments

Canada is on track to miss its commitments under the Paris climate agreement -- and that's after Ottawa fudged the targets by changing the baseline for emissions reductions from 1990 (as spelled out in the Kyoto Agreement) to 2005.

According to the latest Climate Change Performance Index, Canada ranks a woeful 51 of 60 countries (the United States under Donald Trump's administration is ranked 56th). …

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