Are the federal Liberals really serious about climate change?

Like many Canadians, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals during their first year in office. I even suggested in a previous blog that the saying “they campaign from the left but govern from the right” might finally no longer apply to the current incarnation of the party.

But I suffered a rude awakening Tuesday. The federal Liberals announced their approval of the $36-billion liquid natural gas project proposed by Malaysia-based Petronas on BC’s north coast. The price tag includes TransCanada Corp.’s commitment to build two related pipelines.

Still from NASA video highlighting global carbon dioxide emissions. In 2012, Canada ranked 11th in CO2 emissions per capita -- nothing to be proud of.

Still from NASA video highlighting global carbon dioxide emissions. In 2012, Canada ranked 11th in CO2 emissions per capita — nothing to be proud of.

If this goes ahead, it will be no small project. In fact, it will be one of the largest resource projects in Canadian history. Our premier touts it as Canada’s largest private enterprise project ever. However, it’s not its financial size that shocks and depresses me.

This LNG project will add massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere — yes, they are 20 per cent lower than was originally planned but the Liberals have capped them at “only” 4.3 million tonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide a year. At a point in time when we should not just be reducing greenhouse gas emissions but moving to a carbon-free economy, this decision could not have been worse.

Globally, we are now witnessing all-time record temperature highs month after month. Bill McKibben, a hero of mine, co-founded 350.org. The name of this organization is based on the scientifically sound belief that everything possible must be done to stop carbon content in the atmosphere (which is measure in parts per million, or ppm) from going over 350. It’s terrifying news that we are now hitting over 400 ppm, with no leveling off in sight. This is literally a death sentence for tens of millions of people who live near coastal areas, such as those in Bangladesh.

There’s even more bad news with regard to this proposed project. Liquefying natural gas requires energy — lots of it. British Columbia has one of the world’s greenest sources of energy — hydroelectricity. The federal government could have significantly reduced the negative impact of this project by at least requiring Petronas to use BC’s hydroelectricity to liquefy the natural gas. But, no — Petronas will instead be using natural gas to generate the energy required!

Not convinced yet that we should be seriously questioning Justin Trudeau’s commitment to the environment? Well, then, consider this — the LNG facility itself will be located on Lelu Island at the mouth of the Skeena River. This island is right next to the waterways where the massive Skeena River salmon runs must travel. One small catastrophe at this facility and we will say good-bye to one of the world’s most prolific salmon rivers.

If I haven’t put you in too much of a down mood yet, here’s the kicker: many prognosticators are suggesting that the LNG announcement will facilitate approval for the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

And let’s not forget that Tuesday’s approval comes just after the federal Liberals gave the green light to BC Hydro’s Site C dam last month. This is the project that Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, before her election, protested vigorously against. She repeatedly alleged that the Harper Conservatives would be ignoring First Nations’ treaty rights if they approved this project, and she now sits in a cabinet that has done what she so loudly protested against.

Maybe that time-honoured saying that the federal Liberals campaign from the left but govern from the right is true after all.

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