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Canada-U.S. Plan to Nearly Halve Methane Emissions Could Be Huge Deal for the Climate

Obama and Trudeau at White House

At the Canada-U.S. bilateral talks last week President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an ambitious plan to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 per cent below 2012 levels by 2025.

40-45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025 from the oil and gas sector - See more at: http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2016/03/10/us-canada-joint-statement-climat...
40-45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025 from the oil and gas sector - See more at: http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2016/03/10/us-canada-joint-statement-climat...

The announcement came as welcome news to many environmental groups concerned about the high global warming potential of methane. The gas is 25 to 34 times as potent as carbon dioxide over a century.
 
Methane is a component of natural gas and the recent fracking boom in both Canada and the U.S. has dramatically increased methane emissions from gas production and transportation as well as fugitive emissions leaked from processing stations and pipelines.
 
Scott Vaughan, executive director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and former Canadian environment commissioner, said the cross-border plan to limit emissions is “really impressive.”
 
“The announcement, if implemented, will lead to reducing [absolute] emissions from Canada’s oil and gas sector by about 20 per cent,” Vaughan told DeSmog Canada.

Top Five Climate and Environment Issues for Obama-Trudeau Bilateral Summit

The strained relationship between Canada and the U.S. over the last decade was in no small part due to disagreement over the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline. 
 
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a staunch supporter of what he called the “no-brainer” project. President Obama, on the other hand, felt like all sorts of brain should be involved when deciding on the future of such major fossil fuel infrastructure. And he rightfully rejected the border crossing pipeline project, which had clearly failed his climate test.
 
Now, with Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the helm of America’s Hat, the two most intimately tied economies in the developed world have a lot of catching up to do. Even with Keystone XL dead and buried (sort of), environment and energy issues are still top of mind for the two leaders.
 
In a recent Q and A with the Huffington Post, Trudeau acknowledged the timing is right for bold leadership on climate change and the environment: “There is a nice alignment between a Canadian Prime Minister who wants to get all sorts of things done right off the bat and an American President who is thinking about the legacy he is going to leave in his last year in office,” Mr. Trudeau said.
 
“The issues that are important to him and to me are climate change.”
 
Obama and Trudeau already had an informal ‘bromance’ meeting soon after the new Prime Minister took office in November 2015. But now, with the unprecedented Paris Agreement behind them, the two leaders have an incredible opportunity to break new ground on climate action and environmental protection at this formal summit.
 
Here are the top five energy and environment issues these self-proclaimed climate leaders should have on their agenda:

Trudeau Said He is 'Disappointed' By Rejection of Keystone XL. But Is He Really?

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has been Prime Minister for nearly 72 hours and for a large number of people, Canada is well into the 'Everything is Awesome' phase of his tenure.

But for some, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's honeymoon is already over. It ended around noon when he released a statement on Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, describing his administration as “disappointed.” To them it is a glaring “told-you-so” moment — one that exposes Trudeau once and for all as a corporate, right-of-centre wolf in progressive’s clothing. 

But what if it's not that moment? 

If anything, Canadians have seen that Trudeau is a savvy politician. During these early days in office he’s got a lot of politicking to do — and not just with Canadians worried about the climate.

In the same statement that Trudeau expressed his disappointment, he also pivoted to focusing on clean energy jobs.

The Government of Canada will work hand-in-hand with provinces, territories and like-minded countries to combat climate change, adapt to its impacts and create the clean jobs of tomorrow,” the statement read.

So before anyone gets themselves in a tizzy, let's take a look at Trudeau's position on pipelines more generally and explore the nuance of today's important announcement.

Low Oil Prices, High Oilsands Emissions Should Influence Keystone XL Decision: EPA

tar sands, oilsands, kris krug

A letter submitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the State Department gives new weight to concerns the proposed $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline, destined to carry crude from the Alberta oilsands to export facilities along the Gulf of Mexico, will have significant climate impacts.

The EPA letter suggests existing analyses – which downplay the importance of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project – are out of date and require revision in light of low global oil prices.

Due to the plummeting of oil prices and related market changes “it is important to revisit [the] conclusions” of previous reports, EPA told the State Department.

Given recent large declines in oil prices and the uncertainty of oil price projections, the additional low prices scenario in the (State report) should be given additional weight during decision making, due to the potential implications of lower oil prices on project impacts, especially greenhouse gas emissions.”

The State Department is due to release a revised analysis of the Keystone XL project and is currently gathering comments from the EPA and other agencies.

DeSmogCAST 9: U.S. Oil Exports Up, Kinder Morgan's Secrets and Teens Sue for the Climate

In this episode of DeSmogCAST host Farron Cousins joins DeSmog cast Carol Linnitt and Justin Mikulka to discuss how recent changes in the global oil market, combined with a language change regarding crude oil, have led to an increase in U.S. oil exports.
 
We also discuss a new ruling in Canada that allows pipeline company Kinder Morgan to keep its emergency response plans for the Trans Mountain pipeline in British Columbia a secret.
 
We end on a positive note, reflecting on the bold actions of two teenagers in Oregon who are taking their elected leaders to court for failing to act meaningfully on climate change.

DeSmogCAST 7: Obama's Keystone Veto, U.S. Oil Exports and the World's Unburnable Carbon

In this episode of DeSmogCAST our team discusses Obama's recent promise to veto legislation put forward by a Republican-led Congress to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. While the fate of Keystone remains uncertain, the Obama Administration made changes in the final days of 2014 that now allows for the export of U.S. crude oil. As Justin Mikulka reports, the change doesn't lie in a newly passed bill but rather in a language game used to mask the difference between crude oil and condensate

Finally we take a look at a new study recently published in Nature that analyzes the globe's total carbon reserves and pinpoints those that must remain unburned if we are to stay within the 2 degrees Celsius warming limit recommended by scientists and policy makers. That study highlights the Canadian oilsands and almost all coal reserves in the U.S. as carbon deposits that must remain in the ground in a carbon-constrained future.

Harper’s Delusional Hubris to Blame for Obama’s Keystone XL Veto

keystone xl harper obama veto

If revenge is indeed a dish that's best served cold, the President of Cool just served up a four-star pièce de résistance for Stephen Harper.

Tuesday's announcement of Obama's planned veto of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline should not have been surprising, yet when the blow came it carried a shocking intensity.

And how did things go so badly that Canada doesn't have the heft or goodwill in Washington to add a single pipeline to a nation benoodled with them? The answer lies in the delusional hubris of Stephen Harper.

No close watcher of the president should be surprised. In myriad ways, the prime minister's personal ambition shredded our nation's single most important relationship and drew us into the toxic swamp of Washington's poisonous politics.

It's been going on for years.

White House Confirms Obama Will Veto TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline

The White House confirmed today that President Obama will veto Congressional legislation designed to greenlight construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the contentious project first proposed six years ago to carry more than 800,000 barrels per day of Canadian oilsands crude from Alberta to refineries and export facilities along the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite strong indications of support in Congress, the Obama Administration has already indicated it will veto the bill to expedite approval of the $8 billion project if approved. A similar bill was blocked by Democrats in the Senate in November.

If this bill passes this Congress the president won’t sign it either,” Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said. Obama rejected TransCanada's application to build the pipeline in 2012, suggesting congressional Republicans had set a “rushed and arbitrary deadline” for the project's approval.

The bill, proposed by Republican Senator John Hoeven from North Dakota and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, will be debated in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Wednesday with the panel set to vote on the project Thursday.

Like Canada's Harper Government, Obama Administration Muzzling Its Scientists

In recent years, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for disallowing scientists working for the Canadian government to speak directly to the press

An article published in August by The New Republic said “Harper's antagonism toward climate-change experts in his government may sound familiar to Americans,” pointing to similar deeds done by the George W. Bush Administration. That article also said that “Bush's replacement,” President Barack Obama, “has reversed course” in this area.

Society for Professional Journalists, the largest trade association for professional journalists in the U.S., disagrees with this conclusion. 

In a December 1 letter written to Gina McCarthy, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the society chided the Obama administration for its methods of responding to journalists' queries to speak to EPA-associated scientists. 

“We write to urge you again to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the twenty other EPA science advisory committees have the right and are encouraged to speak to the public and the press about any scientific issues, including those before these committees, in a personal capacity without prior authorization from the agency,” said the letter.

“We urge you…to ensure that EPA advisory committee members are encouraged share their expertise and opinions with those who would benefit from it.”

It's Time to Put the Spotlight on Government Secrecy

#cdnfoi, transparency in government, sean holman, freedom of information

Partisans may not believe it, but Canada’s “culture of secrecy” existed long before Stephen Harper moved into the prime minister’s office. And it’ll be around long after he moves out, unless Canadians do more than just cast their ballots in the next election.

That’s why four groups concerned about freedom of information, one of which I’m part of, are launching a campaign encouraging Canadians to take a small but vital step on social media that would raise more awareness of just how much is being hidden from us: spotlighting examples of government secrecy with the hashtag #cdnfoi.

Such secrecy has its roots in our political system, which has a tradition of strict party discipline. Because of that discipline, decisions made by the government behind closed doors – in cabinet meetings, for example – are rarely defeated in the House of Commons, making secret forums the principle arbiters of public policy.

To be sure, the Harper administration has done more than its share to cultivate a backroom state, frustrating access to government records and officials, as well as failing to fix our broken freedom of information system. But Canadian society is an especially fertile ground for the growth of policies that violate our right to know.

In part, that’s because our country doesn’t have any groups that exclusively and routinely advocate for greater freedom of information at a national level. Probably the closest we have to that is the small BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association.

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