Ana Simeon: Beware the greenwash during Paris climate talks

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      By Ana Simeon

      I don’t envy Prime Minister Trudeau his job. Within weeks of taking his oath of office, he is facing the world community at the climate summit in Paris, including island nations at risk of being washed away by rising seas. Many will expect him not just to deliver a credible climate plan, but also to help repair the damage caused by Canada’s obstruction of global efforts for the past decade.

      To make the task even more daunting, the provinces’ approaches have been mixed at best. Saskatchewan is being obstructionist, much like the federal government used to be. While Alberta’s plan is a huge leap forward, more is still needed. And the draft recommendations of B.C.’s Climate Leadership Team, released last week, are constrained by the mandate given them by the government, which seems designed to protect the LNG industry rather than make any real progress on climate.

      Trudeau and his team will have their work cut out sorting wheat from chaff, true climate solutions from self-serving greenwash.

      The proposed Site C dam is a case in point. Premier Christy Clark touts Site C as a “clean energy project” which we supposedly need to power the development of the LNG industry. This Orwellian sleight of hand never connects the dots—“clean” hydro to power the expansion of fracked gas, a fossil fuel every bit as dirty as coal!

      Site C is 100 percent greenwash. It is not, and can never be, a real climate solution.

      Real climate change solutions respect human rights, especially the rights of indigenous peoples

      Not Site C. Treaty 8 would see their territory flooded, fisheries contaminated, hunting grounds under water, hundreds of cultural and spiritual sites obliterated for all eternity. An open letter to B.C.’s Climate Leadership Team, signed among others by Grand Chief Stewart Philip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson of the BC Assembly of First Nations, denounces Site C as an “assault on constitutionally protected Aboriginal Title and Rights and Treaty Rights.” Four legal cases brought by First Nations against Site C are pending before B.C. and Alberta courts.

      Real climate solutions contribute to an overall reduction of climate emissions 

      Not Site C. The purpose of Site C is to power up expanded production of LNG and fracking. Site C and the associated transmission lines would come on top of the cumulative impacts of industrial development in the Peace region that is proceeding at such a pace that Global Forest Watch reports that it outstrips Alberta’s tar sands.

      In the preliminary documents submitted ahead of the Paris summit, Canada stated that it will use “low-impact hydro” as one of its “investments to encourage the generation of electricity from renewable energy”.

      Site C cannot be remotely considered low-impact hydro, as it would flood over 100 kilometres of valley bottom, triggering a release of methane for many decades to come. Large dams are a globally significant source of methane emissions, a source that countries are required to acknowledge and count under agreed-upon international guidelines.

      Real climate solutions don’t take food production for granted

      With climate change, drought and extreme weather is the name of the game. Real climate solutions value, cherish and protect food producing lands – and not just farmland, but First Nations wild foods and fisheries too. Site C would flood a food oasis so uniquely productive that it grows semi-tropical crops amid the boreal forest. A unique agricultural valley that can provide fruits and vegetables—cantaloupes, melons, tomatoes, peppers—for one million people. Every year. Forever. Former ALC chair Richard Bullock called this destruction of food-producing land “a sin against humanity”.

      Imagine what we could do with $10 billion we applied it to real climate solutions. We could heal the relationship with First Nations and partner with them in creating a renewable energy future for all British Columbians.

      We could have solar panels on every roof in the province, help every family in the land retrofit their house with triple glazing and insulation, build cities that produce renewable energy, fund world-class public transportation. And have enough left over for a school or ten.

      Meanwhile, the uniquely productive Peace Valley farmland could be put to work to produce healthy, affordable fruits and vegetables, providing a safety net for B.C. families against skyrocketing global food prices as temperatures rise and severity of droughts increase.

      A real climate solution would recognize food-producing lands such as the Peace Valley as essential to human survival and well-being in an era of climate change, and a strategic asset of the highest public interest for the province and the nation.