Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has approved two of three controversial oil pipelines that, if built, could knock Canada off its course to meeting its climate change commitments, opponents say.
Trudeau on Tuesday signed off on Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline as well as Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, both of which would carry crude oil from Canada's tar sands region in Alberta to global markets.
He rejected a third pipeline, Northern Gateway, which the prime minister said "wasn’t in the best interests of affected communities."
Environmentalists' swift rejection of Trudeau's decisions suggests his honeymoon phase is ending about one year after he swept the federal elections in October 2015. The prime minister already caught international flack this week after he complimented Fidel Castro in a tribute to the Cuban leader, who died on Friday.
Image: Emily Beament/PA Wire via ap images
Canada's tar sands oil is considered particularly dangerous to the climate because it requires significantly more energy to extract and refine compared to other types of crude. Studies have shown that for the world to meet the temperature targets under the Paris Climate Agreement, tar sands oil would need to be left in the ground, rather than burned for generating energy.
But building the pipelines could allow producers in Canada's Alberta province to expand production and add jobs.
Land-locked Alberta, which has the world's third largest oil reserves, needs more pipelines to export its oil sands production to global markets.
Trudeau said the two pipelines would meet "strict environmental impact standards" while creating much-needed jobs and infrastructure in western Canada.
"Strong resource development goes hand in hand with strong environmental protection," the prime minister said via Twitter.
We’ve worked hard to develop policies that stick to these values – creating good, middle class jobs, and protecting our environment.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 29, 2016
The $6.8 billion Trans Mountain project will nearly triple the capacity of an existing pipeline from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day. The 715-mile twinned pipeline will move oil products from Alberta to a terminal near Vancouver in British Columbia.
Enbridge's Line 3 replacement project will nearly double that existing pipeline's volume to 760,000 barrels a day. The $7.5 billion project would bring oil from Alberta into Superior, Wisconsin.
The rejected Northern Gateway pipeline would have passed through the Great Bear Rainforest and into coastal British Columbia, where oil tankers would've collected the crude and shipped it to Asian markets. Trudeau said this pipeline did not meet environmental standards.
Environmental groups on Tuesday blasted Trudeau's decision to approve the two tar sands pipelines.
Image: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck
"Today's announcement may as well have said that Canada is pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement," Aurore Fauret, the tar sands campaign coordinator for grassroots climate group 350.org, said Tuesday in a statement.
The Paris agreement, which officially entered into force this month, commits nations to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping societies adapt to a warming world.
Under the deal, countries have agreed to work to limit global temperature to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to pre-industrial levels by 2100. So far, 114 countries representing nearly 80 percent of the world's emissions have formally joined the agreement.
Canada, for its part, has agreed to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Image: AP photo/mark lennihan
Approving the two pipelines means "there is no way Canada can meet those commitments," Fauret said.
"Justin Trudeau has broken his promises for real climate leadership, and broken his promise to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples."
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said approving the Trans Mountain pipeline "is a big step backwards for Canada's environment and economy," according to a statement.
He noted that the Alberta-to-B.C. project was approved under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose administration prioritized energy projects over environmental commitments.