In a climate emergency, how do you think the federal government should be using public dollars?

Solar energy and battery storage come to mind. So does electrified public transportation and energy efficiency for our homes.

Instead, it turns out that the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta have spent a minimum of $23 billion on fossil fuel pipelines since 2018.

Take Action: Tell Canada to end subsides for fossil fuel projects

This is the key finding from a new report, Pipelines or Progress: Government support for oil and gas pipelines in Canada, that was just published by our friends at the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The report looks at federal and provincial support for three major pipelines: the TransMountain pipeline and expansion project (TMX), Coastal GasLink and the now dead Keystone XL.

These are projects which violate Indigenous rights and put ecosystems at risk. The pipelines would lead to the expansion of oil and fracked gas and the emissions from these projects would make it impossible for Canada to do its fair share to tackle the climate emergency.

Some quick background on the three pipelines:

  • Keystone XL, which would have brought crude oil from Alberta to Texas, was officially terminated earlier this month, because of its climate impacts.
  • The TransMountain pipeline and expansion is intended to bring crude oil from Alberta to Burnaby, to be exported. In 2018, the federal government bought TMX. The pipeline is opposed by millions of people, many First Nations and dozens of municipalities.
  • The Coastal GasLink Pipeline would bring fracked fossil gas across Northern British Columbia, through Wet’suwet’en territory, also for export. It is opposed by the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

In addition to the shocking topline number, some key findings include:

  • $23 billion is likely an underestimation, because calculating full levels of subsidies and other government support is impossible due to a lack of government transparency. Thousands of pages of federal government documents related to financial support for the Trans Mountain project were withheld from researchers.
  • TMX received the lion’s share of the government support, at least $15.4 billion.
  • Over $10 billion of the $23 billion was provided after the COVID-19 pandemic hit -you know, when governments were claiming to be focused on a just and green recovery from the pandemic.
  • At the federal level, most of this support has been channelled through crown corporation Export Development Canada.
  • This spending violates a decade old commitment made by the Government of Canada to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

Spending money on pipelines extends and expands the production of fossil fuels – at a time when the world’s scientists and the International Energy Agency are clear that we need to be moving in exactly the opposite direction.

We know we need a massive transformation of our current economy away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. We have available, affordable and sustainable solutions that will do most of the heavy lifting to achieve deep reductions in the next decade.

Yet, instead of focusing on these solutions, governments in Canada are continuing to prop up outdated and dirty energy systems. Government doesn’t have infinite resources. This IS a zero sum game.

A just transition is possible. One that prioritizes people over corporations, where people have secure careers in a clean economy that is designed by and for workers, and where the energy we use is renewable. But not if our decision-makers keep subsidizing pipelines.

Keystone XL is dead. Neither TransMountain nor Coastal GasLink has been completed – we can still stop these projects before it’s too late.

Red button that says "take action"