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As Trudeau's Liberal government meets its six-month mark of being in office, climate group the Pembina Institute is calling for a clear, comprehensive climate change test for Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) projects.
"Canada's federal government was elected last October on a platform that contained many environmental commitments. One of the most…hotly debated was their commitment to establish a pan-Canadian climate change framework," said Erin Flanagan, Program Director of Federal Policy at the Pembina Institute. "Since the government's election they have confirmed that working with the provinces and territories will be cornerstone to the federal approach on climate change."
The group hosted a webinar yesterday outlining what a climate test -- under the federal government's promise for a renewed environmental assessment process -- could look like and how it would affect proposed projects, such as the Pacific NorthWest (PNW) Project near Prince Rupert, B.C.
Matt Horne, member of B.C. Premier Christy Clark's Climate Leadership Team and Pembina Institute's Associate Regional Director for B.C. commented in the webinar that the PNW Project was a key example because of its high emissions rates.
"When you combine emissions from the LNG terminal plus associated upstream emissions, it would be among the largest carbon polluters in Canada," he said. "From our perspective, whenever you have a project like that that's a material in a national or a provincial context in terms of being able to meet targets, it's entirely appropriate there should be a higher level of stringency and a higher level of rigor around the questions testing whether or not it makes sense for a project to go forward."
What the Pembina Institute proposes is a climate test that includes asking two critical questions: is the region on track to meet its climate targets and is carbon pollution from the project being minimized? If either of these questions has a negative answer, the project should not proceed.
Horne dove into the example of the PNW LNG Project and how it would fare under this test.
"Right now, unfortunately, we would argue the answer to both of these questions is 'no,'" he said. "As a result, in that scenario, the project shouldn't proceed."
Horne noted that within B.C., the province has the potential to get back on track but is currently is failing to meet its climate targets particularly as it has neglected to implement recommendations brought forward by the Climate Leadership Team.
While these recommendations were given to reduce emissions across B.C.'s economy, some specific to LNG projects include increasing the province's carbon tax, expanding the carbon tax coverage, reducing methane by 40 per cent within five years and directing B.C. Hydro to develop an electrification strategy for LNG and upstream gas.
Horne also pointed out that carbon pollution from this project is not being minimized to its fullest potential and that there are opportunities both at the LNG terminal and upstream to reduce emissions such as renewable energy for auxiliary power, methane controls and using electricity instead of gas to power compressors.
"Some of this is already happening in B.C.," he commented. "Just not happening at the scale and commonality that would be needed to get on track for a trajectory similar to the Climate Leadership Team recommendations."
With these realities of the PNW LNG project in mind and the example climate test, Horne offered four ways the federal government could step in and limit its carbon pollution:
1. Rejecting the project entirely
2. Setting environmental conditions
3. Implementing a new federal climate policy
4. Encouraging B.C. to implement the Climate Leadership Team's recommendations
"If [the federal government] moves ahead with a project that undermines the province and therefore its ability to meet its targets or if it approves a project with major opportunities to reduce emissions that its not requiring, I think it does undermine the seriousness of its commitment to climate change," said Horne.
"From our perspective, we really need to look at, not just an accounting exercise of counting up the emissions, but counting them up and looking rigorously at where they fit into Canada's plan and also making sure that we're doing what we can to minimize them."
Alyse Kotyk is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice and storytelling. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen's University and is excited by media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen's News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer.
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