Harper government offers to provide Obama political cover in return Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

 According to CBC News, Canadian Prime Minister Harper has offered to accept climate targets proposed by the United States and is prepared to work in concert with President Obama to provide whatever political cover he needs to approve the Keystone XL tar sands. Canada is already failing to honor its current climate commitments – in 2009 the Harper government joined the United States in agreeing to reduce its emission by 17% of 2005 levels by 2020. The U.S. is currently on track to meet its climate target. Canada is on course to miss its targets by 113 million metric tons CO2e – a failure that is primarily due to the dramatic expansion of tar sands production. The Harper administration understands that Keystone XL is critical to its policy to triple tar sands production by 2030. While the Harper government’s commitment to tar sands expansion has been unflinching, it has done little more than make empty promises on climate. The only credible plan to meet the climate commitments Canada has already made requires addressing the unchecked expansion of the tar sands. Any credible plan to address Canada’s climate emissions is incompatible with tar sands expansion. Harper’s offer is nothing more than a ploy.

The Harper government has been making promises to reduce carbon emissions while pursuing policies to increase them for years:

  • In 2008, the Harper administration released its “Turning Pointing” plan promising to reduce Canadian emissions to 580 million metric tons by 2020. Prime Minister Harper also promised that all tar sands projects built after 2012 would use carbon capture and sequestration technology to address their carbon emissions.
  • In 2009 in Copenhagen, the Harper government moved its goal posts, agreeing to reduce its emission to 626 million metric tons by 2020.
  • In 2011, after several years of inaction on meeting its climate targets, Canada formally withdraws from the Kyoto protocol, breaking its 1997 climate commitments.

While the Harper government promotes its 2009 climate targets, it has done little to honor them. Canada’s own Auditor General estimates that the country is on course to miss them by 113 million metric tons. It's 2013, and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is not a requirement of new tar sands projects. The only way Canada can address its climate problem is by addressing the increasing emissions from the tar sands. And that requires Harper to abandon its policy of unchecked tar sands expansion – of which Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a critical component.  

After fifteen years of broken Canadian climate commitments, one thing is clear – actions speak louder than words. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline represents another concrete step toward higher carbon pollution. There is only one way the Obama administration can influence Canadian climate policy – and that is by rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.