We’re five months into the pandemic and so far we’ve seen lots of examples of polluting industries trying to use the crisis to pressure governments for more subsidies, changes to laws, and other ‘good for profits, bad for people’ policies that corporations have been trying to get for years.
Greenpeace has been working hard during the crisis to expose, bring greater attention to, and push back against these unethical and damaging corporate behaviours.
We’ve been filing Access to Information requests to try to expose oil industry lobbying, and have found some unsettling things. Our research just uncovered a briefing note, dated May 26, 2020, prepared for Minister of Economic Development Mélanie Joly that sheds more light on how the oil industry has been pressuring the government in the midst of the pandemic.
According to the briefing note the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil & Gas Industries Association (NOIA) has asked the federal government to reinstate a tax credit (the Atlantic Investment Tax Credit) which was cut under the Harper government in order to comply with G20 commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, and which industry was still complaining about having lost as recently as last year. They also requested another tax credit specifically to support offshore oil exploration activities.
So in the middle of a massive pandemic and an even more massive climate crisis, the oil industry is asking the government to help pay for their oil exploration activities and new buildings and machines. They want government support to make the climate crisis worse.
As an indication of the pressure the industry is applying, the briefing note even makes a point of highlighting how there is “increasing pressure on [Natural Resources] Minister O’Regan to deliver assistance.”
These attempts by the fossil fuel industry to get increased subsidies, despite knowing we’re in the middle of a climate crisis, despite the fact that oil companies have already discovered more oil than can be burned if we’re to avoid climate catastrophe, and despite the desperate need for additional funds to finance the green transition, is yet another example of how this industry is actively working to block and undermine action on climate change.
So far as we know the government has (to date) not granted NOIA’s requested tax subsidies. But they have given NOIA another choice plum in the form of seriously weakened and undermined environmental oversight, which is a scandal in itself.
At the request of industry the federal government has exempted offshore oil exploration in Newfoundland from having to undergo a normal environmental assessment, allowing companies to avoid scrutiny for the impact their activities will have on local ecosystems and the climate. The exemption represented such a serious failure to apply proper environmental oversight that it prompted a legal challenge from a coalition of environmental groups: Ecojustice, Ecology Action Centre, Sierra Club Canada, and WWF.
Watching the oil industry exploit the pandemic to get government support and make the climate crisis worse makes it crystal clear why we need all people, including MPs concerned about the climate crisis, to be speaking out loudly and often in support of a green and just recovery.
The oil lobby is powerful, and we’re going to need all of us to counter its dangerous and insidious influence.
Please sign our petition today to stop corporate lobbies from exploiting the coronavirus pandemic.