Today, Canada’s Environment Commissioner released a report that shows that the federal government continues to allow risky and irresponsible energy development at the expense of our climate.
The report confirms Canada will not meet its 2020 carbon target. This isn’t surprising. We’ve known from Environment Canada reports that increased carbon pollution from the tar sands has wiped out efforts in other sectors.
But the Commissioner also said that the federal government was misleading Canadians by taking credit for reductions in greenhouse gas pollution that were due to provincial action—like the closing of Ontario’s coal-fired power plants—or because of the downturn in the economy.
It’s time the Canadian government drop the rhetoric and keep its frequently broken commitment to regulate and reduce carbon emissions from the tar sands. Despite eight years of promises, the federal government still doesn’t have a single regulation to limit those emissions. The Commissioner found that those regulations were drafted more than a year ago but rather than put them into law, the federal government has merely used them in closed door discussions with the oil industry.
The Commissioner also found that the tar sands monitoring program, which is co-managed by the federal and Alberta governments, has significant gaps. For example, the monitoring program does not allow the federal government to understand what the cumulative environmental effects of the tar sands will be on air, water, and the ecosystem.
An even bigger weakness is not monitoring human health, since the tar sands pose a very real threat to human health. More needs to be done to track the impact of both air and water pollutants on people living in the shadow of the industry.
A study released last year found cancer-causing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) at concentrations 6,000 times higher than normal in air samples taken in northern Alberta because of tar sands pollution. The same study found increased incidences of rare cancers associated with these dangerously high levels of air pollution, including leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Even when it comes to what the program is monitoring—toxic contamination of the air, water and living things—the Commissioner found that there were delays in several parts of the program, and that the federal government has made no commitments to continue the monitoring beyond next March. But the program needs funding for as long as the tar sands operate. Canadians deserve to get a full picture of the tar sands impacts.
Finally, the Commissioner’s report shows that there are serious risks to increased marine traffic in the Arctic, because ships are mostly navigating through dangerous, uncharted territory without adequate weather and ice information. Four ships have run aground since 2007. The melting of the ice cap should be seen as a warning sign, not a green light to increased marine traffic and fossil fuel extraction in the Arctic.
Ignoring all the risks and continuing down this energy pathway would be completely reckless for Canada. Will the Canadian government finally understand this or will it remain willfully blind to what the Environment Commissioner has laid out today?
You can help. Tell the federal government to stop reckless tar sands expansion, which is damaging our land, air, water and climate. Take action here.