Will Canada's New 'Climate Test' for Pipelines Have Sharp Enough Teeth?

October 6, 2020 0 By JohnValbyNation

On the same day a report from a federal watchdog found that Canada’s national energy regulator is failing to properly ensure the safety of pipelines, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to subject the multi-billion dollar projects to a “climate test” that will determine their impact on Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The developments taken together provide more evidence that the National Energy Board (NEB), tasked with overseeing pipeline approvals and operation, requires significant reform—and that to do so, as Council of Canadians campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue told Common Dreams on Tuesday, “the Trudeau government has a big job ahead of it.”

Environmentalists and First Nations communities have long demanded a so-called “climate test” for proposed fossil fuel projects, which would assess not just the greenhouse gas emissions from a pending pipeline but also its “upstream” effects, meaning those from oil production. While the NEB has long refused to consider emissions impacts, Trudeau promised to implement such a review on the campaign trail.

In this context, Tuesday’s news is a victory for “the thousands of people across Canada demanding climate tests on fossil fuel development in this country,” said Cam Fenton, 350.org’s Canadian tar sands organizer.

“It’s very encouraging news to hear that the federal government plans to unveil a climate test,” Tim Pearson, communications director for Sierra Club BC, added in a statement to Common Dreams. “It’s a critical tool that, if done right, can help Canada meet its commitment to keep global warming below 1.5°C.”

But simply putting such an assessment in place is merely the first step, climate activists say.