Is Canada's Justin Trudeau a climate hypocrite?

leave it in the ground
© SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Or is it all a big political show?

I feel sorry for Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He spent C$4.5 billion buying the Trans Mountain pipeline project to placate the government of Alberta, and Premier Jason Kenney still complains about everything. Recently dumped Conservative leader Andrew Scheer actually had the gall to complain that Trudeau buying the pipeline "sent a devastating message to the world, and to the business community, that the only way to get a project built in Canada is to have the government nationalize it.” Trudeau can't win with these people. If you don't buy the pipeline you divide the country; if you do, you are a socialist.

Now Bill McKibben is on Trudeau's case, writing in the Guardian about how Trudeau is selling out to the oil industry. He notes in an article titled When it comes to climate hypocrisy, Canada's leaders have reached a new low that, while the Americans elected a climate change denier,

Canada, on the other hand, elected a government that believes the climate crisis is real and dangerous – and with good reason, since the nation’s Arctic territories give it a front-row seat to the fastest warming on Earth. Yet the country’s leaders seem likely in the next few weeks to approve a vast new tar sands mine which will pour carbon into the atmosphere through the 2060s. They know – yet they can’t bring themselves to act on the knowledge. Now that is cause for despair.

McKibben goes on to say that Trudeau plans to burn up all 173 billion barrels of oil: "That is to say, Canada, which is 0.5% of the planet’s population, plans to use up nearly a third of the planet’s remaining carbon budget." Chris Turner thinks that is a bit of an exaggeration.


In fact, it's likely that the pipeline and the Teck mine or the Trans Mountain pipeline might still never get built. Finishing the pipeline could cost C$12 billion and the mine C$21 billion, at a time when the funding for oil projects is drying up. Larry Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock Inc, says, “Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects," adding that he believes the world is “on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.” According to Alan Livsey in the Financial Times,

After much hand-wringing, BlackRock, the world’s largest investment manager, signed up to the Climate Action 100+ initiative, a group of 370 fund managers controlling some $35tn of assets. These investors want action on greenhouse gases, and energy producers with large stores of hydrocarbon reserves are an obvious target.

And the biggest targets are:

Those companies with the highest carbon intensity in their oil and gas reserves face the greatest risk of writedowns as a result of changes in climate change policy. These include Canadian oil sands producers Suncor Energy and Imperial Oil, but also US shale oil drillers Pioneer and EOG.

Really, it's tough, trying to run a country where so much depends on whether people can expensively boil rocks to separate the bitumen, dilute it and ship it over mountain ranges and hope that it can compete with cheap fracked oil from the USA. So it's all just very expensive theatre, but the show must go on.

Is Canada's Justin Trudeau a climate hypocrite?
Or is it all a big political show?

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