Environment Minister Peter Kent is being urged by his department to avoid “distractions” (like misleading media reports on science articles) and focus on “essential” regulations for oilsands companies and other large polluters.  

I hope Environment Canada sends that memo over to their colleagues at Natural Resources, for in my one (and probably only) meeting with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, he definitely was distracted.

According to the Mike de Souza article in the Calgary Herald:

Environment Minister Peter Kent is being urged by his department to avoid distractions and focus on "essential" regulations for oilsands companies and other large polluters, a newly released internal memorandum has revealed.

Kent received the memo after a widely circulated scientific commentary downplayed the global warming footprint of oilsands production.

The memo warned him that the commentary was misinterpreted in the media and becoming a "distraction" from efforts to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gases in Canada.

"Addressing emissions from the oil-sands - and all other major emitters - is essential to meeting Canada's (climate change) target," said the memo, sent from Kent's former deputy minister Paul Boothe on Feb. 27.

The memo (well worth a read) also notes that “Some have argued that the results of the study are being misinterpreted by the media, and that the research actually argues for greater action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands”.

I’d like to think that they read my blog that made precisely this point (hey, a blogger can dream).

When I met with Minister Oliver on March 26 (I’d asked for the opportunity to brief him on the proposals for making a transition off of fossil fuels in our Energy [R]evolution report), he responded by claiming that the Weaver study had proven that the tar sands were not a major issue for the climate.

Not so, I countered, arguing that the study actually found that fully developing the tar sands would use up three quarters of North America’s entire carbon budget. And in my follow-up request for a promised second meeting, (ours had been cut short because he had to head to another engagement), I sent him the full article with the following section highlighted in my cover note:

Carbon footprints

To have a 66% chance of limiting warming to less than the 2 °C limit put forth in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, one carbon–climate modelling study estimated that total future global carbon emissions should be limited to less than 5.9×1017 g C (ref. 9). If this amount were to be distributed equally among the current global population, the resulting allowable per capita cumulative carbon footprint would be 85 tonnes of carbon. The eventual construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would signify a North American commitment to using the Alberta oil-sand reserve, which carries with it a corresponding carbon footprint. For comparison, by fully using only the proven reserves of the Alberta oil sands, the current populations of the United States and Canada would achieve a per capita cumulative carbon footprint of 64 tonnes of carbon....

If North American and international policymakers wish to limit global warming to less than 2 °C they will clearly need to put in place measures that ensure a rapid transition of global energy systems to nongreenhouse-gas-emitting sources, while avoiding commitments to new infrastructure supporting dependence on fossil fuels.

To which I received this reply from NRCan Assistant Deputy Minister Mark Corey. It can be summarized as “No more meetings” and “Oil sands not a problem for the climate”.


So if Environment Canada is reading this blog, please send that memo to Minister Oliver.

Pretty please.

And thank you.