Zero carbon or bust

The oil and gas sector is our most polluting industry

by Peter McCartney

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley have put together a climate plan that phases out coal power and brings in a carbon price. But they’ve done it with the explicit goal of justifying the expansion of our dirtiest industry: oil and gas.

Canada is the world’s fifth largest producer of oil and gas. We export fossil fuels all over the planet, despite knowing the harm they are causing. We hold some of the responsibility for those climate impacts, even if we didn’t burn the product ourselves. Here at home, the oil and gas sector is our most polluting industry. Any climate plan that doesn’t tackle these emissions will fail. And that doesn’t mean allowing the tar sands to expand while producing less carbon per barrel of oil. We need abrupt, absolute reductions in pollution, the kind that can only come from a planned phase-out. This means ending oil and gas exploration, stopping the proposed Teck Frontier tar sands mine and the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Ultimately, we need a plan to wind down the industry and support the workers who are affected.

Alberta has an example of how to transition workers out of a polluting industry. It provides financial support for coal workers to access further education, fund their retirement or relocate for new opportunities. It also funds economic development initiatives in coal communities. Why not expand this, with support from the federal government, to the oil and gas sector? Our leaders clearly see the need to wind down and transition one dirty fossil fuel industry, but not another. Any gains made by winding down the coal industry are lost as long as we plan to increase pollution from oil and gas, which is already 38 times more damaging.

There is simply no future for this industry and workers deserve a plan to deal with the aftermath.

Peter McCartney is the climate campaigner at the Wilderness Committee. Find out more about his work to take on Canada’s fossil fuel industry at wildernesscommittee.org and contact him at peter@wildernesscommittee.org, 604-683-8220, or mail to 46 6th Ave E., Vancouver, BC., V5T 1J4.

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