Environment Minister Steven Gilbelt, who became an environmental activist elected by President Justin Trudeau five months ago to lead Canada’s climate policy, faces his first major test: a new marine oil project.
The Norwegian company Equiner is searching for oil in the Flamenco Pass Basin, about 500 kilometers east of St. John’s in Newfoundland.
His Pay to Nord project promises to create thousands of jobs and raise $ 3.5 billion (approximately $ 2.8 billion) in royalties for the Atlantic Island province.
But the exploitation of 300 million barrels of crude in 30 years will negatively affect the fight against climate change.
The chaos in the oil market will be further complicated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia’s energy sector.
Guilbeault, a longtime activist who climbed the CN Tower in Toronto in 2001, will announce the decision on the project in the coming weeks, drawing attention to climate change.
Environmentalists promise this is their good faith and Trudeau’s “real test”.
Pierre-Olivier Pineau, energy policy expert at the HEC Montreal School of Business, told the AFP that the Trudeau administration was facing a “huge dilemma.”
“If I happen to bet, I think there is a small chance that the plan will be rejected,” he said, adding that the government needs to show that it is taking real climate action.
It was, in particular, defeated in 2018 for saving the construction of a large pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific coast.
“If it (Bay to Nord) is rejected, it sends the message of strengthening Canada’s image as champion in the fight against climate change,” Pino said.
Following the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1993, the Ottawa Bay to Nord should be rejected, according to Equiterre, an environmental advocacy group co-founded by Gilbold, who co-founded the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“Canada is far from achieving its greenhouse gas reduction targets,” Equiterre analyst Emile Boisseau-Bouvier told AFP.
Last year, the Trudeau government reduced its Paris Agreement target of carbon emissions by 40-45% from 2005 to 2030. But that is still lower than the EU and US targets.
“We’re going to solve the (climate) problem, not by betting on a dying industry,” Boisseau-Bouvier explained, explaining that “the next few weeks will be important for Canada,” which is preparing to unveil a plan. To achieve its emission target ..
In the last election, Trudeau’s Liberals won six of the seven seats in the 338 – seat House of Commons in Newfoundland.
All six, including former Resources Minister Seamus O’Reilly, who is now Labor Minister, have been pushing hard for approval for the oil project, but are openly facing opposition within the Liberal faction.
As the unemployment rate in the country is high, Newfoundland needs the economic stimulus that Pay to Nord can provide.
Prices halted construction of another marine oil project in 2020, especially due to falling oil demand and epidemic controls.
Ottawa later provided about $ 320 million ($ 255.1 million) in aid to Newfoundland’s oil industry.
Newfoundland Premier Andrew Fury said it was “important” for the regional economy and stressed to Trudeau about the “importance of this plan to (the) province”.
After a four-year environmental review, Ottawa has twice in recent months postponed announcing the decision to pay to Nord.
Paul Barnes, Atlantic Director for Oil and Natural Gas Producers of Canada, said: “People are very upset by the delay.
The Canadian Environmental Impact Agency concluded last August that Bay to Nord was “unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, considering the implementation of mitigation measures”.
Pino acknowledged that approving the plan implicitly would go “against climate goals,” but arguing that rejecting it would move oil investments elsewhere meant “this is not necessary for the climate.”
Angela Carter, a professor at the University of Waterloo, studies the environmental and political-economic risks of relying on fossil fuels.
“We can not have both … Canada can not fulfill its climate responsibilities and expand its oil and gas production.”
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