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Worries about ‘Trump effect’ on climate action has groups mobilizing

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

02/15/2017

OTTAWA (CCN) — With Donald Trump in the White House, groups concerned about climate justice are preparing to resist any “Trump effect” on the environment here in Canada or elsewhere.

Genevieve Talbot, advocacy officer for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, said she is “absolutely” worried about how Trump’s presidency could have an impact on climate justice.

The new U.S. president has appointed the former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State; he’s appointed Scott Pruitt, a known climate skeptic, as head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); he has said he is “not a big fan” of the Paris Climate Accord; and has sent numerous tweets that alarm Talbot and others advocating for the environment. He also approved the Keystone XL pipeline that will bring Canadian crude from the oilsands to refineries in the United States.

“The fact that the U.S. president is also behind the oil industry makes it harder for the environmental groups and social justice groups to fight for climate justice,” said Talbot.
“The concerns with the new administration are that the United States will take a step back from the responsibility to support the Paris Accord that the previous administration seemed willing to do,” said Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice.

One Trump effect, however, is that it is “easier to mobilize people than it was before,” said Talbot.

Gunn and Talbot, however, expressed concerns regarding pipelines in Canada, even if approval was in the works well before the Trump election and are widely believed to be a trade-off for Alberta’s signing on to a national carbon pricing plan.

In November, Prime Minister Trudeau approved the Kinder Morgan and the Enbridge Line 3 pipelines.

Kinder Morgan, a trans-mountain pipeline to the lower mainland of British Columbia, is opposed by rural MPs, First Nations communities and environmental groups, Gunn said. “It is going to triple exports and bring tankers up the Fraser River.”

“There’s no question in our minds the prime minister can’t have it both ways,” said Gunn. “We can’t say Canada will meet its climate targets and expand these pipelines and increase these fossil fuel exports to the United States at the same time.”

Talbot also expressed concern about the Canadian pipelines. “It will cause an increase in production and it will have an impact on our own production of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

Indigenous peoples in Western Canada are “really taking a stand for climate justice,” Talbot said. The approval of the pipelines goes against Truth and Reconciliation promises as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, she said.

“The companies and the government have to understand they don’t have the buy-in from the communities,” she said, noting how increasingly environmental and social justice groups are working together.

At a Feb. 6 news conference on Parliament Hill with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and American Daphne Wysham of the Center for Sustainable Economy, an American think-tank, journalists were told Americans will resist the Trump agenda.

Just as people demonstrated against Trump’s travel ban, advocates for the environment are prepared to block pipeline construction, Wysham said. “We are not going to take this assault on our rights to clean air and clean water sitting down.”

If Trump pushes ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline, people are prepared to block it with tractors and cattle, she said.

Canada should do more if the United States does less and not listen to politicians who say the economy will be adversely affected, said May. If Trump pulls out of the $100 billion fund the industrial world has pledged toward helping the developing world reduce emissions, May said she hoped other countries would fill the funding gap, as they have promised to do on abortion funding in the developing world.

May said Trump might also put a price on carbon, so Canada will not be adversely affected by its own, but she remains worried he will gut regulations. Without both, climate targets will not be met, she warned.

“I think it’s too early to tell what Trump is going to do,” said Mark Cameron, executive director of Canadians for Clean Prosperity.

“There has been speculation that as part of a budget deal, Trump might introduce carbon pricing,” Cameron said. “He is looking to cut corporate and personal income taxes, increase defence spending and increase infrastructure spending. He needs some source of income to pay for this or the deficit will be unmanageable.”

Unlike Talbot and Gunn, Cameron said he does not “have a problem with building pipelines to the West Coast and to the United States, as long as we are properly pricing carbon and reducing our emissions.”

Fossil fuels will continue to be used even under scenarios designed to hold global warming to two degrees Celsius, he said. In 2030, there will be about 80 million barrels of oil needed worldwide per day.

“Canada would easily provide 4-5 million barrels in that supply if we are an affordable jurisdiction and able to reduce our emissions,” Cameron said.

“We prefer to deal with carbon emissions through pricing rather than regulation,” Cameron said. “It doesn’t make sense to have regulations that impose a much higher cost to the industry than a carbon price would.”

“There are some regulations that are low cost and sensible — such as the regulations on methane for the oil and gas industry Canada and the U.S. agreed to last year,” Cameron said. “I’d be concerned if the Trump administration rolled those back. But other regulations such as subsidies for, or minimum requirements for, renewal energies or biofuels, makes much less sense.”

“Carbon pricing makes nuclear, natural gas, hydro, solar, and wind all on a level playing field,” he said.

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