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The project to end projects

29 Jul 2020 | OP ED Watch

Environment and Climate Change Canada has put forward a plan to make sure the economic recovery, should it get underway, doesn’t emit CO2. The new “Strategic Assessment of Climate Change” essentially requires the proponents of any new megaproject to explain how it will help the federal government reach its goal of “net zero”. It is of course filled with good ideas, as things tend to be when the authors grade their own work. “The Government of Canada is putting in place better rules for major projects, to protect the environment and communities, advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and ensure good projects can go forward, creating good jobs and economic opportunities for middle-class Canadians.” Yay. Good projects. Just nothing that emits CO2 and what really does that sort of thing anyway?

Well, awkwardly, everything, including the private jets ministers use to visit their family during a pandemic. And it’s also surely awkward, at least in theory, that a government that has failed so spectacularly to meet its own various targets from Kyoto to Paris to infinity and beyond would rub its hands and ask private firms to do it for them. But it’s even more serious with unemployment at record levels and Western alienation driven in significant part by federal hostility to Alberta’s energy industry, while public servants take paid leave en masse because there was no important work for them to be doing and get raises to boot.

The document oozes confidence. “The strategic assessment of climate change will enable consistent, predictable, efficient and transparent consideration of climate change throughout the impact assessment process.” Apart from the bit where the models don’t work and our past predictions were rubbish. But there is this much to be said for it.

The Prime Minister has long argued that we have to get rid of fossil fuels. He periodically pretends not to and buys a pipeline, or admits we can’t do it right away. But he is a true believer that CO2 is the control knob of global temperature, that it is very sensitive, and that Canada must act even if other nations don’t (and neither does its government, really, if taking decisive action looks unpopular). He may waver and waffle and create timid policies like a small carbon tax. But in his heart he’s with Gerald Butts and Greta Thunberg. And this policy fits in very well with an approach in which all good projects can go forward but no profitable project is good, and the approval process is all maze and no cheese.

Jobs? We don’t need no stinking jobs. Energy? We don’t need no stinking energy. We can all be public servants on paid leave financed with borrowed money. What could possibly go wrong? To those for whom the answer to that question is obvious, we again implore you to push back, including on the bad science. You cannot surrender on science then fight on policy. And they will not stop until you are dead.

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