This week, former B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver was in Richmond with Justin Trudeau touting the Liberal climate plan.
The UVic professor called it "bold and thoughtful".
"This is the plan that I've been dreaming of for most of my life," Weaver declared with Liberal candidate Joyce Murray standing behind him.
Murray, who's seeking reelection in Vancouver Quadra, focused on climate emissions when she sought her master's degree in the early 1990s. She's running against one of the Green party's climate scientists, Devyani Singh, who's doing postdoctoral work focusing on methane emissions.
It's a remarkable political turnaround for Weaver.
In 2019, he expressed exasperation to the Straight about the federal Liberals' inaction on the climate.
In fact, he confessed at the time that he quit the party because of Trudeau's handing of this issue.
“Climate change is a very serious issue and I’m sick and tired of politicians saying we’ll do something and doing nothing, which is the reason why I tore up my membership in the federal Liberal party,” Weaver said in 2019. “It was because of [Justin] Trudeau’s hypocrisy over oilsands.”
In that interview at the Vancouver Pride Parade, Weaver also talked about his deep concerns about a liquefied-natural-gas plant that the federal Liberal and B.C. NDP governments had approved in Kitimat.
The Shell Oil–led consortium that owns the plant says it will produce lower carbon-dioxide equivalents for every tonne of LNG than any other plant in the world.
It also claims that substituting coal-fired electricity with LNG in Asia will lower overall global emissions—something that's been disputed.
Yet the Trudeau government has considered seeking carbon credits for the export of LNG.
The last B.C. inventory of greenhouse-gas emissions revealed that 67.9 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalents were emitted into the atmosphere in 2018.
Of those, 8.8 million tonnes were from methane. And 3.78 million tonnes of those methane emissions came from the energy sector, an increase of four percent from 2017.
But a recent study in Environmental Science & Technology came to the conclusion that actual methane releases in B.C. were 1.6 to 2.2 times greater than the federal government has estimated.
Here's why this is important: methane has 25 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide over 100 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
So if the federal government is lowballing methane-emission estimates in B.C.—which happens to be where nearly 600 people died during a recent heat wave—then we have a big problem on our hands.
Liberals see technology as the saviour
The Liberal climate plan calls for the National Research Council to become "a global centre for excellence on methane detection and elimination, to address the global issues of under-reporting of methane emissions".
This demonstrates that the party acknowledges there is a problem with the under-reporting of emissions.
Now, let's go back to the LNG plant that the Trudeau and John Horgan governments approved in 2018.
When it was given the green light, the B.C. government's Climate Action Secretariat said it would produce 3.45 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalents per year.
However, Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimated that the facility would actually contribute nine to 12 million tonnes per year. That included all the emissions further up the gas-supply chain as a result of fracking.
"At the high end, these new committed emissions from LNG Canada would double the province’s emissions from the oil and gas sector," Lee wrote.
But these numbers are relatively small compared to the emissions related to the $12.6-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
The Trudeau government went ahead with this after buying the whole system from Kinder Morgan.
The production and burning of petroleum shipped through the pipeline is projected to exceed all of B.C.'s annual emissions every year.
What does all of this have to do with the Liberal climate plan, which Weaver so heartily endorsed on September 14?
There's much to admire in the words in the various documents. There's no question about that.
For example, there's a call for banning thermal coal exports no later than 2030.
It will be intriguing to see the response from billionaires Warren Buffett and Jim Pattison. Buffett owns the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway company, which brings U.S. coal up to B.C. for export. It's put on ships at Westshore Terminals in Delta, whose largest shareholder is Pattison.
The Liberals are also promising to require oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions by 75 percent below 2012 levels by 2030. Yet as we've seen from the B.C. data, methane emissions from the energy sector rose four percent in the last inventory. And even then, they might be under-reported.
And given what Lee wrote for the CCPA, it will be a monumental challenge to cut methane emissions in light of the fugitive emissions that will come from fracking natural gas for the LNG Canada plant.
Are the words in the Liberal plan just more Trudeau sophistry on the climate? Time will tell if his party is reelected.
No cuts to oil production
But perhaps the most questionable aspect of the Liberal plan is its call to "cap and cut emissions from oil and gas". That's part of achieving its oft-stated target of net-zero emissions in Canada by 2050.
Here are the sentences in the Liberal plan that everyone needs to read if they're voting based on the climate.
"Fortunately, Canada’s largest oil and gas companies are already committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. These actions will incentivize clean innovation and the adoption of clean technologies, including carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS)."
I couldn't find anything in the Liberal plan about cutting production of oil and gas in the coming years. It's possible I overlooked this—and if I did, I encourage any Liberals reading this article to let me know. But I couldn't see this in plain English in the documents on the Liberal website.
But I do know this: Canada's national energy regulator has forecast that oil production would peak at 7.2 million barrels per day in 2045 under a "reference scenario". This assumes higher prices and a lack of future domestic and global climate policy action. That's up sharply from 4.9 million barrels per day produced in Canada in 2019.
In an "evolving scenario", crude oil production will peak at 5.8 million barrels per day in 2039. Under this scenario, it would then decline to 5.3 million barrels per day by 2050. That's still seven percent higher than current production, according to the national energy regulator.
In other words, the so-called net-zero emissions promised by the oil and gas sector is extremely dependent on "carbon capture, utilization, and storage", as mentioned in the Liberal plan, because the oil companies are still going to increase production.
Critics slam capture and storage
But what is carbon capture, utilization, and storage? As the National Research Council website explains, it involves the use of a whole lot of technology to bury carbon-dioxide equivalents in underground reservoirs.
Does it work? Can it work? Or are the Liberal Party of Canada and Andrew Weaver just whistling in the wind by saying that Canada can jack up oil production and still reduce emissions?
The National Research Council insists that carbon capture, utilization, and storage "can play an essential role in the transition to a prosperous net-zero economy". It's worth noting that the B.C. government's climate plan also embraces this technology.
Because carbon capture, utilization, and storage are so central to Canada achieving its climate targets, this technology is drawing more attention from the international environmental movement.
On July 19, scores of organizations (see the list below) wrote an open letter to Trudeau and four of his cabinet ministers emphatically stating that "carbon capture is not a climate solution."
"Pledges to achieve 'net zero' emissions through the use of CCS technologies rely on the flawed premise that we can continue burning fuels indefinitely by capturing some of the carbon emissions and offsetting the rest," they declared.
"As explained below, CCS does not halt the core drivers of the climate crisis — fossil fuel production and consumption — or meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions," they continued. "Instead, it prolongs reliance on fossil fuels and, perversely, increases oil production through 'enhanced oil recovery.' CCS is neither economically sound nor feasible at scale."
To drive home this point, they stated: "We don't need to fix fossil fuels. We need to ditch them."
Moreover, they insisted that storing compressed carbon dioxide is "highly hazardous" because if it leaks into communities, it "can result in the asphyxiation of humans and animals".
"Underground storage poses additional risks, such as potential leakage, contamination of drinking water, and stimulation of seismic activity," they added.
Among the other criticisms of carbon capture, utilization, and storage:
* it's not consistent with the principles of environmental justice because areas targeted for carbon capture, utilization, and storage are often where Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities are "already suffering the disproportionate and deadly impacts of environmental racism";
* it prolongs dependence on fossil fuels;
* the majority of captured carbon is used to pump more oil out of the ground through a process called enhanced oil recovery;
* it does not remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and, at best, merely prevents some emissions from entering the atmosphere;
* permanent storage or sequestration is not backed by science or existing regulations.
"Deploying CCS at any climate-relevant scale, in the short timeframe we have to avert climate catastrophe, without posing substantial risks to communities on the frontlines of the buildout, is a pipe dream," the groups stated in their letter to Trudeau and his cabinet ministers. "Despite the billions of taxpayer dollars spent by governments in both the United States and Canada on CCS over the last ten-plus years, the technology has not made a dent in CO2 emissions.
"Continuing to sink federal funds into technological carbon capture is choosing to chase a fossil-fueled fantasy rather than deal with the root of the problem."
Clearly, the Liberal Party of Canada and Andrew Weaver have faith in carbon capture, utilization, and storage as a climate solution for Canada.
After all, Weaver described the Liberal climate proposals as "the plan that I've been dreaming of for most of my life".
Below, you can read the list of signatories to the letter to Trudeau. They clearly disagree with him and Weaver when it comes to carbon capture, utilization, and storage.
With just a few days left before the Canadian election, let the debate begin. Our lives just might depend on it.
Ben & Jerry’s
Catholic Divestment Network
Citizens’ Resistance at Fermi 2
Coalition for a Nuclear Free Great Lakes
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
International Marine Mammal Project
Just Transition Alliance
Network of Spiritual Progressives
North American Climate, Conservation, and Environment
Ocean Conservation Research
Oceanic Preservation Society
Oil Change International Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Sisters of Charity Federation
Social Eco Education Los Angeles
The Enviro Show
Alberta Liability Disclosure Project
British Columbia Hydro Ratepayers Association
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Canadian Health Association for Sustainability & Equity
Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Canadians for Tax Fairness
Chemainus Climate Solutions
Climate Action Powell River
Climate Emergency Unit
Climate Justice Montreal
Climate Justice Ottawa
Committee for Human Rights in Latin America
Community Climate Council
Comox Valley Council of Canadians
Council of Canadians / Le Conseil des Canadiens
Curr Dynasty Creative
Ecologos Water Docs
Environmental Defence Canada
Environnement Vert Plus
Extinction Rebellion New Brunswick
For Our Grandchildren
For Our Kids North Shore British Columbia
For Our Kids Toronto
Fridays for Future Toronto
Friends of the Earth Canada
Georgia Strait Alliance
Global Peace Alliance BC Society
Grand(m)others Act to Save the Planet
Grandmothers Advocacy Network
My Sea to Sky
Parents for Climate
People’s Health Movement Canada
Réseau Québécois sur l'Intégration Continentale
Respecting Aboriginal Values & Environmental Needs
Seniors For Climate Action Now!
Shift: Action for Pension Wealth & Planet Health
Sierra Club Canada Foundation
Simcoe County Environmental Youth Alliance
Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition
Sustainable Orillia Youth Council
The Climate Reality Project Canada
Women’s Healthy Environments Network
2 Degrees Northampton
350 Bay Area Action
350 Butte County
350 Central Mass
350 Conejo / San Fernando Valley
350 New Hampshire
350 New Orleans
A Community Voice
Action Center on Race & the Economy
Advocacy & Training Center
Advocates for Springfield
AFGE Local 704
Alabama Interfaith Power & Light
Alliance for a Green Economy
Alliance for Affordable Energy
American Environmental Health Studies Project
American Family Voices
American Indian Movement Southern California
Animals Are Sentient Beings
Animas Valley Institute
Athens County’s Future Action Network
Atlantic Coast Conference Climate Justice Coalition
Ban Single-Use Plastics
Bergen County Green Party
Berks Gas Truth
Better Path Coalition
Beyond Extreme Energy
Black Mesa Trust
Black Voters Matter Fund
Bronx Climate Justice North
Buckeye Environmental Network
Bucks County Concerned Citizens Against the Pipelines
Bucks Environmental Action
Businesses for a Livable Climate
California Businesses for a Livable Climate
California Democratic Party Environmental Caucus
California Environmental Justice Alliance
California River Watch
California Safe Schools
Call to Action Colorado
Carrie Dickerson Foundation
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church Environmental Justice Ministry
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Climate Integrity
Center for Coalfield Justice
Center for Environmental Health
Center for Environmentally Recycled Building Alternatives
Center for International Environmental Law
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment
CEO Pipe Organs
Change the Chamber
Chicago Area Peace Action
Church Women United in New York State
Citizens Action Coalition
Citizens Awareness Network
Ciudadanos Del Karso
Clean Air Action Network of Glens Falls
Clean Air Now
Clean Energy Action
Clean Energy Now Texas
Climate Action Now Western Mass
Climate Action Rhode Island / 350 Rhode Island
Climate Hawks Vote
Climate Justice Alliance
Climate Reality Project New Orleans
Coal River Mountain Watch
Coalition Against Death Alley
Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline New Jersey
Coalition for Outreach, Policy, Education
Colorado Businesses for a Livable Climate
Colorado Small Business Coalition
Columbus Community Bill of Rights
Comite Pro Uno
Common Ground Community Trust
Community Action Works
Community Church of New York
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
Concerned Citizens of Saint John
Concerned Health Professionals of New York
Concerned Ohio River Residents
Conejo Climate Coalition
Congregation of Sisters of Saint Agnes
Conservation Council for Hawaii
Cooperative Energy Futures
Cottonwood Environmental Law Center
Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability
DC Environmental Network
Deep Green Resistance New York
Deep South Center for Environmental Justice
Democratic Environmental Caucus of St. Bernard Parish
Detroit Hamtramck Coalition for Advancing Healthy Environments
Dis Organization for Solar Power
Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition
Don’t Waste Arizona
Don’t Waste Michigan
Drawdown Bay Area
Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition
Earth Day Initiative
Earth Day Network
Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate & Health Organization
Electric Auto Association of Central Coast California
Elgin Green Groups 350
Empower Our Future
Endangered Species Coalition
Environmental Communion New Jersey Association United Church of Christ
Environmental Protection Information Center
Environmental Transformation Movement of Flint
Environmental Working Group
Escambia County Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida
Extinction Rebellion New Orleans
Extinction Rebellion San Francisco Bay Area
Fairmont Peace Group
Family Farm Defenders
First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn
First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans
Five Calls Civic Action
Florida Student Power Network
Food & Water Watch
Fossil Free California
Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard
Fox Valley Citizens for Peace & Justice
FrackBusters New York
Franciscan Action Network
FreshWater Accountability Project
Fridays for Future USA
Friends of Buckingham
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Global Justice Ecology Project
Golden Ponds Farm
Grassroots Environmental Education
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association
Great Old Broads for Wilderness
Great Plains Action Society
Greater Grand Rapids NAACP
Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance
Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition
Green Education & Legal Fund
Green New Deal Virginia
Green State Solutions
Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy
Haiti Cholera Research Funding Foundation USA
Harvard Solar Gardens
Heirs To Our Oceans
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
Idle No More SoCal
In the Shadow of the Wolf
Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition
Indigenous Environmental Network
Inland Ocean Coalition
INOCHI / Women for Safe Energy
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program
Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice
International Indigenous Youth Council Los Angeles
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Ironbound Community Corporation
John Muir Project
Justice & Beyond
Klamath Forest Alliance KyotoUSA
LaPlaca & Associates
Local Environmental Action Demanded Agency
Long Beach 350
Long Island Progressive Coalition
Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group
Los Padres ForestWatch
Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Louisiana League of Conscious Voters
Lower 9th Ward Neighborhood Watch
Lynn Canal Conservation
Manhattan Project for a Nuclear-Free World
Maryland Legislative Coalition
Mass Peace Action
Massachusetts Forest Watch
Maternal & Child Health Access
Metro New York Catholic Climate Movement
Michigan Alliance for Justice in Climate
Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition
Michigan Interfaith Power & Light
Mothers Out Front
Mothers Out Front Tompkins
Nassau Hiking & Outdoor Club
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force
New Energy Economy
New Jersey State Industrial Union Council
New Mexico Environmental Law Center
New York / New Jersey Environmental Watch
New York Climate Action Group
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
Ní Btháska Stand Collective
Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson
North American Water Office
North Bronx Racial Justice
North Carolina Council of Churches
North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light
North Country Earth Action
North Range Concerned Citizens
Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council
No Waste Louisiana
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Nuclear Information & Resource Service
Nuclear Watch South
NYC Environmental Justice Alliance
Occupy Bergen County
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Oil & Gas Action Network
On Behalf of Planet Earth
Organized Uplifting Resources & Strategies
Our Climate Education Fund
Our Place in the World: A Journal of Ecosocialism
Our Revolution Minnesota
Our Santa Fe River
Partnership for Policy Integrity
Pax Christi USA New Orleans
Peace Action Wisconsin
Peak Plastic Foundation
Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action
People Over Petro Coalition
People’s Solar Energy Fund
Peoples Climate Movement New York
Physicians for Social Responsibility Arizona
Physicians for Social Responsibility Iowa
Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania
Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast
Plastic Free Delaware
Plastic Pollution Coalition
Plymouth Friends for Clean Water
Post Carbon Institute
Powder River Basin Resource Council
Power Past Fracked Gas
Power Shift Network
Preserve Montgomery County Virginia
Progressive Democrats of America
Proposition One Campaign
Public Goods Institute
Publish What You Pay United States
Pueblo Action Alliance
Rachel Carson Council
Rainforest Action Network
Rapid Shift Network
RedTailed Hawk Collective Redwood Justice Fund/ Prison Radio
Renewable Energy Long Island
Resistance Action Tuesdays & Thursdays Pack
Resource Renewal Institute
RESTORE: The North Woods
Rio Grande Valley Great Old Broads for Wilderness
RISE St. James
River Guardian Foundation
River Valley Organizing
Riverdale Jewish Earth Alliance
Safe Energy Rights Group
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace
Sane Energy Project
Sanford-Oquaga Area Concerned Citizens
Santa Barbara Standing Rock Coalition
Santa Cruz Climate Action Network
Save Our Illinois Land
Save RGV from LNG
Save the Frogs!
Science & Environmental Health Network
Seven Circles Foundation
Shenandoah Energy Services
Sierra Club Delta Chapter
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Western Province Leadership
Sisters of Charity of New York
Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt
Snake River Alliance
Socially Responsible Agriculture Project
Society of Native Nations
Solidarity Info Service
Sonoma County Climate Activist Network
South Shore Audubon Society
Southeast Faith Leaders Network
Spirit of the Sun
Springfield Climate Justice Coalition
Stop Fracking Long Beach
Stop SPOT & Texas Gulflink: Save Our Gulf Coast
Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion
Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development
Sunrise Movement Baltimore
Sunrise Movement New Orleans
Sustainable Medina County
Syracuse Cultural Workers
Texas Campaign for the Environment
Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
Texas Grassroots Alliance
The Borneo Project
The Climate Center
The Climate Mobilization
The Forest Foundation
The Freedom BLOC
The Future Left
The Green House Connection Center
The Last Beach Cleanup
The Last Plastic Straw
The Lilies Project
The River Project
Three Mile Island Alert
Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy
Tucson Climate Action Network
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton Green Sanctuary
Unitarian Universalist Mass Action
Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community
Unite North Metro Denver
United Church of Christ Environmental Justice Ministry
Utah Valley Earth Forum
Veterans For Peace Climate Crisis & Militarism Project
Wall of Women
Wasatch Clean Air Coalition
Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
Water and Air Team Charlevoix
Wendell State Forest Alliance
West Dryden Residents Against Pipeline
Western Organization of Resource Councils
Western Rural + Plains States Project
Western Watersheds Project
White Rabbit Grove RDNA
Wild Nature Institute
Women Watch Afrika
Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network
Working Families Joliet
Young Democrats of America Environmental Caucus
Youth United for Climate Crisis Action
Youth Vs. Apocalypse