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Liberals' false Climate Plan

Brian Champ

January 1, 2021

The Liberal Climate Plan released in November to much fanfare from sections of the mainstream media sets forward a plan for net-zero emissions by 2050 – through pricing pollution to pressure a move away from fossil fuels and redistributing this money with rebates to average Canadians; "natural climate solutions" such as tree planting to sink carbon in forests and other conservation efforts; and a "Clean Energy Transition".

While it is a step forward to set a goal declaring that Canada should be net-zero by 2050 (although 30 years is way too long to meet this goal), there are no enforcement mechanisms to keep the country on line to meet these goals. The primary way the plan purports to meet these targets is to put a price on carbon and have market forces "nudge" us toward low-carbon economies. Unfortunately, the transition from carbon intensive extractivist economies to the green economies that people and the planet really need will not be achieved by relying on market forces. Capitalist production relies on fossil fuels at every stage, and oil and gas companies are very influential on decision makers. In many ways our governments are captive to the oil and gas lobby, continuing to advance their agenda even as investment for pipelines, tar sands and fracked gas production dries up.

Rapid transition needed
It's hard to see how the rapid transition we need can be achieved by relying on these market forces. But it's even harder to see how it can be achieved by allowing the development of TMX and other pipelines to continue, as this will further expand tar sands production when we know that the world's climate scientists tell us we need to keep it in the ground.

But this is exactly the "Clean Energy Transition" plan: to "invest every dollar we earn from the Trans Mountain Expansion Project in Canada’s clean energy transition." The plan further estimates that TMX could generate $500 million per year upon completion, and that "this money, as well as any profit from the sale of the pipeline, will be invested in natural climate solutions and clean energy projects that will power our homes, businesses, and communities for generations to come." This shows exactly that this plan is a steaming pile of bullshit.

Liberals’ false plan
The Liberals bought the TMX pipeline at a cost that continues to soar, estimated at $12.6 billion last February. Far from a clean energy transition, this investment locks us in to relying on the most carbon intensive fossil fuels on the planet. To recoup the investment, it would take 25 years of operating the pipeline after which the plan is to sell it and allow it to continue operating. Furthermore, "clean energy" for the Liberals includes increasing fossil fuel energy efficiency, implying their continuing use. Exactly how this is a transition at all is hard to understand.

A real climate plan would start instead by investing this $12.6 billion in public programs that would actually make a difference in developing renewable energy, mass transportation, improving building energy efficiency and decarbonizing agriculture. A real plan would also incorporate Indigenous ideas and knowledge and centre the leadership of Indigenous people to combat this unfolding planetary disaster – instead of the continuing Indigenous genocide represented by the TMX pipeline.

The Liberal politics of climate change is a false plan that further entrenches carbon intensive capitalist development. We need a mobilization of Indigenous people, environmental activists and workers to press for the changes we need, building a community of resistance to fight for a livable world led by Indigenous land defenders, environmentalists and workers that can transform the world. The stakes are high and time is running low.


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