Catherine McKenna, Whistleblower

She Blows the whistle on former colleagues and Big Oil

Using bogus net-zero pledges to cover up massive fossil fuel expansion is reprehensible. It is rank deception. The sham must end.” – UN Sec-Gen, António Guterres.

Catherine McKenna, former Trudeau cabinet member, is now the Chair of the UN’s High-level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities. Behind that bureaucratese, McKenna’s group is investigating the greenwashing “net-zero” claims of corporate actors.  It issued its first report just in time for the COP-27 meetings in Egypt last week.

The report defines what it takes to make a legitimate net zero emissions claim. The report would have been unnecessary if corporations and government agencies weren’t making so many illegitimate claims.

Of particular note is that McKenna, In her new UN role, says what she might have said, but didn’t, as Trudeau’s environment minister;

Net zero is entirely incompatible with continued investment in fossil fuels.”

Her environmentalist successor, Steven Guilbeault, has likewise opted for complicity over brutal honesty. Alas, Guilbeault and her former colleagues in the Trudeau government continue to credit Big Oil net zero claims.

Case in point: The Pathways Alliance, a collaboration among the six top oil sands producers in Canada, says its goal is “to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions from our operations by 2050, while supplying the energy the world needs (my emphasis).” Rather than applying a critical eye to this example of greenwashing, the Trudeau government is pouring billions of dollars into helping the industry clean up its own mess.

Worse still, it is doing so by investing in Big Oil’s wet dream of hopelessly expensive and inadequate carbon capture and storage, or CCS. And it is doing so despite CCS’s being a cover for increased production, despite its shaky viability, and despite the fact that it addresses only half of production emissions at best.

Yup, Ottawa ignores the reality that the industry’s target is limited to emissions arising from production and not the bulk of emissions arising from consumption. In other words, the industry’s net zero ambitions (and they are only ambitions, dependent as they are on an economically questionable and unproven technology – CCS) cover only about 20% of total oil sands emissions, once consumption of their product is taken into account.

And don’t forget that the industry is planning on increasing production by an additional 650,000 barrels a day by 2030!

As McKenna correctly points out, the Pathways Alliance net zero promise must be regarded as bogus.

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, happily capitalizes on misleading industry net zero claims. He continues to maintain that increased production – more bitumen from the oil sands exported through the TMX boondoggle pipeline, more fracked gas from Northern BC exported through new LNG terminals, and new production from Newfoundland and Labrador’s Bay du Nord – is somehow compatible with our international commitments. He pretends this is true just as long as intensity, measured by emissions per barrel, is falling.

McKenna puts that assertion in its place – “You can’t be a climate leader and invest in new fossil fuel projects … you can’t use credits to meet emissions reduction goals … you can’t reduce emissions intensity instead of absolute emissions reductions.”

Is anyone among her former colleagues listening?

Of course, the really immoral fact underneath all this greenwashing is that Canada does not count its fossil fuel exports as a part of its contribution to global emissions.

As that old Tom Lehrer song about the inventors of nuclear weapons goes, “We make the bombs. Who cares where they come down! That’s not my department, says Werner Von Braun.

By Peter Puxley

Hi, I'm Peter Puxley, an economist, geographer and urban planner by academic training, and a political organizer/activist, development educator, journalist, policy wonk, researcher and political staffer by practice. I have tried my hand at poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing, some of which has been published.

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