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Trudeau Government's Climate Emergency Declaration Is 'A Joke'

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Dr. David Suzuki: Trudeau Government's Climate Emergency Declaration Is 'A Joke'

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for The Real News Network from Montreal, Canada.

On June 17, Canada's Parliament adopted a motion declaring a climate emergency. The motion was brought by Catherine McKenna, Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change. Here is some of what she had to say in Parliament in support of her motion.

CATHERINE MCKENNA: Mr. Speaker, my point was that people around the world, including the Pope, understand that climate change is having an impact and that we need to act. In fact, that meeting was between the Pope and major energy companies. I know that the member opposite cares greatly about jobs, she cares greatly about getting our resources to market. Those companies were there meeting with the Pope to say, "We need to put a price on pollution."

DIMITRI LASCARIS: The motion, approved by Parliament, describes climate change as a "real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity, that impacts the environment, biodiversity, Canadians' health, and the Canadian economy." It declares that "Canada is in a national climate emergency which requires, as a response, that Canada commit to meeting its national emission target under the Paris Agreement and to making deeper reductions in line with the agreement's objective of holding global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius." The motion was adopted by a vote of 186 to 63, an overwhelming majority. It was supported by the governing Liberals and three of the four opposition parties, the NDP, the Green Party of Canada, and the Bloc Quebecois. It was opposed by the Conservative Caucus, led by Andrew Scheer.

The motion, however, was non-binding. And strictly speaking, it does not have the force of law. That may explain why on the following day, after supporting this motion, the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau considered himself at liberty to approve the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which the government bought for 4.5 billion dollars last year after regulatory and political uncertainty led Kinder Morgan to abandon the project. In announcing the approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, the Prime Minister stated that every dollar earned from the pipeline, as well as the future sale of it, will be invested in clean energy projects.

Now here to discuss the developments with us is Dr. David Suzuki. For years, Dr. Suzuki has been a leading advocate in Canada and internationally for strong action to resolve the climate crisis and for other environmentally related causes. He has authored over 55 books. He's a scientist, he's a broadcaster, and he is a recipient of the United Nations Environmental Program medal. Thank you for joining us again on The Real News, Dr. Suzuki.

DAVID SUZUKI: Good to be here.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: I'd like to start by getting your reaction, Dr. Suzuki, to the Liberal government's approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. In your view, can that approval be reconciled with the motion that the Liberal government supported only 24 hours earlier?

DAVID SUZUKI: No, absolutely not. I mean, it just shows what a joke the whole declaration of a climate emergency is. I mean, if it's a climate emergency, first of all, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, I don't think the Republicans said, "Oh, that damn Democratic president wants to take us to war and is going to destroy the economy." Everybody joins together in that emergency. It's got one purpose, which is to win the battle. The battle here is in terms of the amount of carbon that's accumulating in the atmosphere. We're way beyond and heading to a total by the end of this century that really puts into question whether human beings, as a species, will be able to survive. It is a climate crisis, but we've been saying that for over 30 years. And all of the posturing that's going on, from Mr. Trudeau being elected, and Mr. Harper, who was prime minister for 9 and a half years, who never once said climate is an issue that we've got to take seriously. He said reducing greenhouse gas emissions is "crazy economics."

And when Mr. Trudeau was elected, he said "Canada's back," went to Paris, and not only signed the Paris agreement, but said we should aspire to keeping temperature rising above 1.5 degrees by the end of the century. That's a tough ask. I emailed Mr. Trudeau after that and said, "That's a hard target, are you serious?" And he emailed back and said, "Yes, I'm serious." Well, if it's a kind of [inaudible] to attack it by reducing our emissions, then everything changes. For example, he approved of a 40 billion dollar liquefied natural gas plant in British Columbia, it's actually liquefied fracked gas. 40 billion dollars for a technology, for an energy that's got to be phased out. That area that is being flooded by the Site C Dam is the fertile area that could feed the north. We've got a food system where food is grown four to six thousand miles from where it's consumed. That can't continue when we have a climate emergency. The area that will be flooded by the dam at Site C in the Peace River should be the breadbasket of the north so we shorten the food chain. But Mr. Trudeau supported the building of that pipeline, which by the way, we stopped 30 years ago.

So it's the same old battle. It's all about politics. It's not a serious commitment to meet the climate challenge. And approving the pipeline is only-you know, what do we expect? When objections came to the pipeline, Mr. Trudeau said, "Yes, we're going to rearrange the National Energy Board that approved this. We've got to change it, we've got to go to the Indigenous people who are objecting, and we'll have to deal with their issues, then we'll build a pipeline." He told us right from the beginning that he was going to build the pipeline. So you can't do that and then say, "Oh, we've got a climate emergency, we've got to deal with this" The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October of last year said that we-if we're going to meet this crisis and try to keep temperature rising above 1.5 degrees since pre-industrial times by the by the year 2100-in order to do that, we have to reduce our emissions, that is our use of fossil fuels, by 45 percent 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

In order to meet that target, Bill Reese, who is the scientist that coined the expression "the ecological footprint," Bill Reese says we have to reduce energy use by 6 percent a year starting last year. Well, I don't see any sign of reducing our emissions. And the idea that we're going to allow expansion of the Alberta tar sands but then use the profit that we're going to make on that venture to invest in clean technology strikes me as absolutely stupid. That would be like, "Look, we can't do anything about preventing the spread of AIDS, but we'll try to get money to commit to finding a cure for AIDS down in the future. That doesn't make any sense. You're not dealing with the crisis in a serious way. And that's what Mr. Trudeau has done. It is all about politics.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: So on that same theme, politics in Canada; in the 2015 election, Dr. Suzuki, as I'm sure you know, star NDP candidate Linda McQuaig stirred up something of a hornet's nest by stating on national television that "A lot of the oil sands oil may have to stay in the ground if we're going to meet our climate change targets." At times, it seems as though in Canadian mainstream politics, discussion about ending the tar sands industry altogether is virtually taboo.

DAVID SUZUKI: That's true.

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