The face of climate corruption in Canada

What’s truly amazing about Canadian politicians is how cheaply they can be bought.


Oil giants chipped in $180,000 to help Canada’s energy ministers have “unbiased” discussions about our energy future

by Graham Saul
Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada
The Mark, July 19, 2011 

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.

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.


The Government of Canada’s record on climate change (2006-present)

Climate Action Network Canada
News Release, March 25,2011

The current government has taken a reckless approach to one of the greatest challenges of our time. Despite the fact that the impacts of climate change have become increasingly obvious, the government has failed to take this crisis seriously. What follows lays out the government’s record on climate change over the past five years.

Ongoing handouts to big oil. The current government provides over $1.3 billion in handouts to the oil industry every year, despite calls to end these subsidies from within the Department of Finance, former Environment Minister Jim Prentice, hundreds of organizations across Canada and major international organizations like the IMF and the OECD. The government’s 2011 federal budget proposed the elimination of less than 10% of these special tax breaks to the oil industry. More information.

Refusing to take tough action on industrial pollution. In 2007, the government promised to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from major industrial polluters. Despite the fact that it has repeated this promise on a number of occasions, the government has failed to take any meaningful action. Greenhouse gas pollution from Canada’s coal plants, tar sands producers, and other industries remains unregulated by the federal government.

The one exception is the regulations on vehicle fuel efficiency that the government adopted in 2010. However, analysis shows that these regulations are essentially business as usual for the automotive sector. More information on vehicle regulations.

Declining clean energy investment. Canada’s only major federal program to support renewable energy died in March 2011 when the federal budget failed to renew it. While the 2011 budget did propose a one-year renewal of the popular home energy retrofit program, the current government does not have a medium term plan for supporting renewable energy and efficiency, the overall funding trend is clearly on the decline. Canada is falling behind in the clean energy economy. If you compare President Obama’s 2010 federal budget request to Canada’s 2010 budget, federal investment in renewable energy is 18 times higher per capita in the U.S. More information.

Disregard for the will of parliament. In 2010, in an unprecedented and undemocratic show of disrespect for the will of Parliament, Conservative Senators killed the only piece of climate change legislation under consideration in Parliament without even bothering to debate the bill.

The Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311) called for the government to establish five-year plans outlining how it intended to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets. The bill had been passed by a majority of MPs in the House of Commons.

It is very rare for the Senate to defeat a bill that has been passed by the House of Commons. When this has happened in the past it has only been done on the “third reading of the bill,” after committee hearings and proper debate in the Senate has taken place. The decision by Conservative Senators to kill the bill without even bothering to debate it or study it in committee was unprecedented.

An international pariah at the global climate change negotiations. For the past four years, the Government of Canada has been awarded the ‘Fossil of the Year’ at the United Nations climate change negotiations. This award is given by Climate Action Network International, a global coalition of more than 400 organizations, to the country that has maintained the worst negotiating position at the global climate change talks. Canada is also the only country in the world to have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol and then openly announced that it has no intention of honoring its commitments.

False start on international climate financing. The current government committed $400 million last year to help poorer countries adapt to climate change and reduce their own greenhouse gas pollution. This amount does represent Canada’s ‘fair share’ of the global total agreed to at the Copenhagen climate summit, but there were a number of problems with where this money came from and how it is being administered. The money was taken out of the existing budget for international aid, instead of being ‘new and additional’ as required by the Copenhagen Accord.

In addition to the money not being above and beyond what Canada was doing anyway, a disproportionate share of this money is only available in the form of loans. The world’s poorest are dealing with a problem they did little to create, and they should have access to grants to help them prepare for the worst impacts of climate change. More information.

Attacking clean energy policies in other countries. The current government has established an “Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy” in the Department of Foreign Affairs and federal officials are systematically working to weaken clean energy and climate change policies in other countries in order to promote the interests of oil companies. At least three specific cases have already been identified (California’s low-carbon fuel standard, a U.S. federal clean fuels policy known as Section 526, and the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive), though there is reason to believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg and that the government is also attacking clean energy policies in other jurisdictions. More information.

Declining support for climate change research /muzzling government climate scientists. Scientists are speaking out about the government’s ongoing attempts to muzzle their efforts to speak publically and freely about their research on climate change. At the same time, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, the main funding body for university-based climate research in Canada, has effectively run out of money. More information.

1 Comment

  • What’s the significance of discussions on energy policy now? Is the petroleum industry looking for political cover for their further expansion? They’re obviously confident that any resulting policy will not hinder their expansion. They must have specific concerns about their future prospects.