Sixteen environmental action organizations have come together to write a single letter of concern to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Their message: resist pressures to weaken or delay implementation of federal environmental laws under the climate of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of particular concern in the groups’ May 11 letter is what they see as a concerted effort from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to request a “COVID-19 Market Crisis Joint Working Group”. EcoJustice, Environmental Defence, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, and the other 13 environmental action organizations in the letter to Trudeau fear the working group could intend to exploit the pandemic crisis to achieve the oil and gas industry’s own ends.
The fears expressed by the groups in the letter to are based on a leaked March 27 letter from CAPP to the federal Minister of Natural Resources. In the letter, CAPP and its member companies ask the government to adopt a “flexible approach to compliance” in the name of economic recovery. According to CAPP, historically low oil prices present “a crisis for Canada’s entire economy” and led to cuts of more than $7 billion in upstream oil and natural gas sector capital investment. The association says there is an urgent need for government action to protect Canada’s oil and natural gas sectors and the thousands of related jobs.
In response, the environmental action organizations wrote that: “Fast-tracking of oil and gas and other resource development projects under the guise of a COVID-19 response would be short-sighted and undermine recovery efforts towards building a resilient economy and a cleaner, healthier future for Canadians.”
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In their letter, the environmental action groups warned that the latest push from CAPP reminded them of a similar effort undertaken in 2011, when CAPP wrote to federal ministers calling for weaker environmental assessment laws and less regulation of the energy industry.
“Within months,” the groups wrote, “Parliament enacted Bill C-38, an omnibus budget bill that gutted many of Canada’s most important environmental laws.”
Two Threats, Two Different Responses
EcoJustice lawyer Alan Andrews, in particular, has written about how the current pandemic has more intensely illuminated the global fight required against climate change. Both are global issues that affect health and the economy, yet there has been a stark difference between the approaches from global leaders to each threat, one of which moves quickly, the other slowly.
“The virus and the climate crisis also both demand that science inform decision-making. And, for the public to play their part in addressing both threats, governments must present clear, credible and transparent plans for action,” writes Andrews, who adds that global leaders acted relatively quickly in response to the pandemic, yet have done very little to mandate emissions reductions over the course of a decade.
“Hopefully, our leaders learn from this experience and apply the same principles of speed and science when it comes to countering the climate crisis,” writes Andrews. “This crisis will pass, and our post-coronavirus future — our climate future — will be completely of our choosing.”