The climate crisis is the greatest threat facing humanity. Floods, ice storms, and droughts are increasing. Our planet is heating up because of human-caused carbon pollution, and it’s putting our water, food and health at risk. We can solve this, but we need to act now.
To avoid dangerous levels of climate change, we need to completely phase-out polluting fossil fuels and reduce our carbon pollution to zero by mid-century. That means saying no to dirty fossil fuels and yes to modern, clean energy. It means building a thriving clean economy.
Capping Tar Sands Pollution
The tar sands are the fastest growing source of carbon pollution in Canada and a massive barrier to meaningful climate action. We’re working to cap their expansion, raise awareness about how these projects are damaging water, air, soil, wildlife, communities and Indigenous lands, and working with others to find ways to stop and eventually repair the damage.
Building a Clean Economy
We don’t need to choose between the environment and the economy. Reducing carbon pollution will lead to cleaner air, improved public health, new jobs, and exciting opportunities for Canadian companies as the world moves to a clean economy.
Ending Public Subsidies for Fossil Fuels
Despite a long-standing promise to end this practice, Canadian governments give billions in public money to oil and gas companies every year - even before the federal government spent $4.5 billion on a leaky pipeline. These subsidies are wasteful, unpopular and not transparent. We’re working make sure federal and provincial governments finally stop funding fossils.
SOLVING CANADA’S METHANE PROBLEM
New research shows that methane emissions from Canadian oil and gas operations are much higher than previously thought. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with significant environmental and health effects. Canada needs strong regulations to reduce harmful methane leaks by oil and gas companies and eliminate them completely by 2030.
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The oil industry says it doesn’t want subsidies. For once, we agree!
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The Future is Wind
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Here is some of the progress we’ve been a part of to reduce carbon emissions and build a clean economy:
In 2012, protections for Canada’s land, air, water and climate were gutted. The new legislation, Bill C-69, isn’t perfect but is a notable improvement and could help restore public trust in government decision-making on energy projects like pipelines. Our role now is to keep working with government and the Senate to improve this bill and pass new law to safeguard our environment.
The federal government takes a small step forward by agreeing to peer-review federal fossil fuel subsidies with Argentina. This is a welcome step towards transparency, but it comes just two weeks after spending $4.5 billion to buy the TransMountain pipeline. Environmental Defence will keep pushing to end public subsidies for oil and gas companies.
The environmental arm of NAFTA ruled that the Canadian government may have failed to enforce its own environmental laws by doing nothing about toxins leaking from tar sands tailings ponds.
Canada passed regulations to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector that are some of the broadest in the world – but provinces and industry are already trying to weaken them. We’re working to keep these strong standards from being undercut, and we’ll keep pushing to eliminate methane leaks entirely.
The Energy East pipeline was the longest pipeline plan in North America, and it put the climate, soil and water of hundreds of communities at risk. Energy East’s cancellation is a shining example of what happens when Canadians take a stand against fossil fuel expansion and demand a clean energy future. Environmental Defence is working to reform the project review process to make climate and communities at the heart, so bad infrastructure projects are stopped before they start.
The linkage is a key step forward in ensuring the ongoing stability and growth of Ontario’s cap-and-trade program, and ultimately in Ontario’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first join cap-and-trade auction in Jan 2018 sells out of all present allowances.
In April 2015, the Clean Economy Alliance united to support of the Ontario government’s commitment to put a price on carbon pollution and develop a climate change strategy and action plan. Now 100 members strong (and growing), the Clean Economy Alliance is an influential voice on a suite of pressing climate issues.
The National Energy Board, which is responsible for approving pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure, agrees to correct a glaring oversight in their assessment process. New projects will now be required to consider greenhouse gas emissions and alignment with overall climate policies in its review of a pipeline project. Environmental Defence is part of the effort to overhaul Canada’s environmental laws and environmental assessment process.
Our new report shows that tars sands tailing ponds have over 1 trillion litres of toxic liquid – and there’s evidence that it’s contaminating groundwater. The cost of cleanup is now greater than total lifetime royalty revenues collected by Alberta from oil sands companies. Environmental Defence filed a case before NAFTA’s Commission for Environmental Cooperation to ask the Canada stop neglecting this huge and growing risk to our health and environment.
Ontario’s cap-and-trade system limits carbon pollution in Ontario by placing a cap on carbon emissions, then lowering the cap each year to meet targets enshrined by law. The money raised through cap-and-trade auctions – an estimated $2 Billion per year– will fund a variety of programs to further reduce harmful emissions and enable the province to reach its pollution reduction targets.
The United States and Canadian governments declared Arctic waters indefinitely off limits to oil and gas development. The Arctic holds a precious, yet sensitive ecosystem that is vital to Indigenous livelihoods and culture in the north. We’re continuing to push for Canada to live up to its claims of climate leadership by moving off the fossil fuel economy.
With the European Union ratifying the Paris Agreement in October 2016, the accord will become international law less than a year after it was agreed to in December 2015. Countries, including Canada, now must step up with more ambitious pledges to ensure the agreement’s long-term goals are achieved. Environmental Defence will continue to urge Canada to step up to become a climate leader.
In October 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that all provinces and territories must implement an escalating carbon price by 2018, or the federal government will step in and implement one. Environmental Defence was widely quoted in media, explaining that a pan-Canadian price on carbon is an important element of a climate change strategy, one that signals to polluters that the atmosphere can no longer be used as a free dumping ground.
In fall 2016, the National Energy Board review of TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline was suspended indefinitely after review panel members recused themselves over a perceived conflict of interest. We're calling on the review to be cancelled and restarted only when the broken pipeline review process is overhauled.
In June 2016, the Alberta government appointed an oil sands advisory board to provide advice to government on the implementation of the oil sands emission cap and to address issues related to reducing the impact of oil sands extraction on air, land, water and biodiversity. Our Executive Director Tim Gray is one of 15 members on the advisory board.
In June 2016, Ontario announced a comprehensive plan to cut carbon emissions from transportation, buildings, industry, electricity, agriculture and waste and create jobs and business opportunities in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Environmental Defence provided insight and expertise in the development of this plan.
In May 2016, Ontario passed Bill 172, which enshrines the province's climate targets in law and puts in place a cap-and-trade program to put a price on carbon pollution. The legislation commits Ontario to reinvesting revenues from cap-and-trade in complementary actions to cut carbon emissions – a key element that Environmental Defence called for.
In March 2016, we cheered when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial and territorial premiers came to an unprecedented agreement in Vancouver: that Canada would ratify the Paris Agreement, sign up to legally-binding carbon reduction targets, and that the federal governments and provinces would together develop a pan-Canadian climate framework that included carbon pricing.
Ontario’s commitment to address climate change and cut carbon is outlined in its Climate Change Strategy. A key component is the introduction of a cap-and-trade system starting in 2017 that will reduce carbon emissions and generate funds for complementary actions, like more residential solar panels, which will further cut emissions.
At the U.N. climate summit in Paris, Canada supported a global agreement to limit global warming to 1.5. degrees. Canada must now strengthen its own emissions reduction commitment to keep that international obligation and to ensure a safe climate future. We’re working to ensure Canada turns its strong words in Paris into climate actions at home.
The new Alberta government laid out a game-changing climate action plan. In addition to an economy-wide price on carbon, phasing out coal, and spurring renewables, the plan included a cap on tar sands emissions. We supported this plan as it is clear that for Canada to meet any meaningful carbon reduction target, a cap on tar sands emissions is essential.
In April of 2015 we helped unite a group of nearly 90 organizations including prominent Ontario businesses, industry associations, labour unions, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, health charities, and environmental groups. The alliance formed to support the Ontario government’s commitment to develop a climate change strategy and put a price on carbon.
In April 2015, more than 25,000 people from across Canada gathered in Quebec City to demand government action on climate. Environmental Defence helped thousands of concerned Ontario residents attend one of the largest climate marches in the country’s history.
After massive opposition from Quebec residents and people across Canada, TransCanada was forced to cancel its planned Energy East export terminal in Cacouna, QC on the St. Lawrence River. The massive oil tanker terminal would have threatened endangered Beluga whales.
President Obama took a stand and said he would not approve the Keystone XL pipeline project if it impacted the climate. In late 2015, he followed through and rejected TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
Ontario’s phase out of burning coal for electricity was the single largest initiative to cut in greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and dramatically reduced the number of smog days to almost none, allowing Ontarians to breathe fresher air.
The expansion of the tar sands is far from inevitable. In 2014, several projects were shelved, including: Statoil’s Corner project, Total’s Joslyn mine and Shell’s Pierre River mine. We helped call attention to the challenges of extracting this high-cost, high carbon oil.
The easiest way to cut carbon emissions is to use less energy. Ontario’s Conservation First principle prioritizes programs that can cut current and future energy usage even as the province’s population grows. Environmental Defence was a driving force in securing this initiative.
Line 9 is an aging oil pipeline owned by Enbridge Inc. that runs through some of the most densely populated parts of Canada. Enbridge wanted to use the line to ship heavy crude, including tar sands oil. The pipeline was not built for this purpose. We helped thousands of concerned residents speak out against this risky pipeline plan.
Ontario has a thriving renewable energy industry thanks to the Green Energy Act, which provides incentives for small and large producers to invest in wind and solar projects, encouraging job growth in the province.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Big problems require big solutions, and all of us can help make the changes we want to see. By signing petitions and attending events, you can make your voice heard and help to affect change.
Petition: Tell the Canadian government to stop giving government money to fossil fuel companies
take action now.
Petition: Frack off: All high-carbon projects should get a federal environmental review.
take action now.
Read: Six actions that should be part of Ontario’s new climate plan
Success! Canada passes groundbreaking federal methane regulations
"As parents, we all want the very best for our children. Climate change is a great threat to their wellbeing and ours. For the sake of our children, we all have a part to do and we need to act fast."
-Hattie Wei, Toronto
MEET THE TEAM
At Environmental Defence, we educate the public about a host of environmental issues, work with business and government leaders to advise on policy decisions and mobilize Canadians to create the cleaner, greener more prosperous country we’re striving for. Meet the team who works on Climate and Clean Economy.
Join The Community
Change happens when people like you express your concern and make your voice heard. Join our online community of folks concerned about our changing climate. Join us in working to build a clean economy. We will send you a quarterly update on our campaigns, invitations to join us at events and opportunities for you to take action.
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