Yesterday the Government of British Columbia announced that it was officially opposing the expansion of the Kinder Morgan TransMountain tar sands pipeline. The province pointed to the company’s failure to provide enough information to satisfy all 5 of the conditions that the government had laid out in order for them to formally support the project in its National Energy Board (NEB) application process.
This is yet another big blow to a sector that is turning a blind eye to the reality that high-cost, high-carbon, high-risk tar sands simply can’t have a future in a carbon constrained world. The industry is in desperate need of new pipelines in order to profitably expand production, but of the four major pipeline proposals that they have put on the table, all of them have faced unprecedented public, political, and legal opposition.
Keystone XL has been nixed by the president for its impact on the climate, Northern Gateway does not have the support of the new Canadian government (who wisely followed the lead of First Nations and concerned citizens across the province and country), Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion is now adamantly opposed by the B.C. government along with major municipalities and the majority of the population, and TransCanada’s Energy East seems to face more hurdles everyday from cities, provinces, and citizens and has been forced to delay plans on a number of occasions.
This most recent hit comes on the heels of the Paris climate talks where the world took a significant step towards the end of the fossil fuel era. Canada in particular, with a brand new government, committed to an ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 Degrees Centigrade. And as the federal government and provinces meet over the coming weeks and months to design a new national plan to live up to this global promise, the tar sands will be in a tougher position than ever.
As Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution and the world’s third largest oil reserve, there is little question that unfettered growth is no longer an option as the world and Canada move to rein in pollution and avoid locking us all into decades of unwanted greenhouse gas emissions. But meeting new and very ambitious climate limits will take more than just an end to growth of extraction, the conversation now must be about keeping carbon in the ground.
The vast majority of the remaining tar sands resource cannot be extracted and burned in a safe climate future, and as such, new projects and new infrastructure that would support growth (such as pipelines) don’t fly. So far it has been the result of inspiring and committed concerned citizens across the continent that have held the industry at bay by delaying and stopping major pipelines, but now governments seem to be starting to catch on.
But it won’t be easy. The province of Alberta has announced plans to introduce a new climate package that takes a step in the right direction by putting a limit on tar sands growth, but still fall well short of stopping growth entirely, let alone thinking forward to how to wind down production and build a clean energy economy in the coming decades (in line with what science demands in a climate safe world).
While the provinces and federal government grapple with some tough questions about how to divide Canada’s carbon pie, it is going to continue to be up to people power to prevent the industry from barrelling forward in a last ditch effort to lock-in dangerous projects and infrastructure while it thinks it can still get away with it.
We must work harder than ever to keep our elected officials on the right side of history (and pull them over when necessary). People power is stopping tar sands expansion, and until we get real and effective plans and action from government and industry about a just transition away from high carbon fossil fuels, we can’t slow down.
The British Columbian government’s decision to oppose the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline expansion is another victory on the way to a safer, cleaner, fairer energy future. But it does not mean that our work is finished! We look forward to a new year full of committed pipeline and tar sands activism and keeping it in the ground.