The troubling truth about the Canadian government's efforts to derail U.S. climate policy

Did you ever think
you'd hear a Canadian diplomat describe their job as ensuring the "oil
keeps-aflowing?" Or that they'd call recommendations to clean up Canada's
oilsands "simply nutty?"

You heard it this
week.  Newly released documents obtained under Access to
Information legislation reveal the Government of Canada is pursuing an
orchestrated strategy to undermine U.S. efforts to combat climate change and
reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

obtained and released
this week
by the Pembina Institute reveals the Canadian Embassy partnered
with industry to fight U.S. efforts designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
from high-carbon fuels. The e-mails reveal a general strategy to fight these
efforts at the federal and state level.

These messages,
coupled with other revelations
by Climate
Action Network
last week, illustrate how the Canadian
government is attempting to undermine climate and clean energy policies in the
U.S., California and the European Union.

It's hard to say
what is most troubling about these reports. Is it that Canadian diplomats are
fighting U.S. climate legislation instead of supporting it?  Or is it that they are working with
industry and not representing Canadian interests? It's also pretty concerning
that the diplomats don't appear to acknowledge that reducing greenhouse gas
emissions might actually be a good thing. 

The documents
obtained by the Pembina Institute and the Climate Action Network report
tell three stories: 

From 2007 to 2009
the Canadian government lobbied against a California clean energy goal to
reduce the carbon intensity of California's transportation. The documents
obtained by the Climate Action Network and Pembina reveal correspondence from
the Government of Canada through its Ambassador and Natural Resources Minister
actively opposing the effort.  And
this is despite the fact oil imports from Canada are only two per cent of
California's total.

Second, the
Canadian government has also led a quiet campaign against a little known
U.S. law that is geared to cleaning up the federal government's reliance on
high-carbon fuels.  The law, a
provision of the 2007 U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act known as
Section 526, requires
the U.S. government to buy fuels meeting an environmental performance standard

that favours less carbon-intensive oil. Rather than identifying how Canada
could comply with the law, the Canadian government fought the provision. Today
and despite the Canadian governments lobby efforts, these provisions remain
U.S. law.

And finally, the
European Union is pursuing new policies to reduce greenhouse gases from
transport fuels and to address air pollution. These policies will classify
fuels, from higher carbon to lower carbon fuels. According to the Climate
Action Network report, representatives from Foreign Affairs and Natural
Resources Canada are weighing in against this policy. 

What is so
revealing about these e-mails? On the one hand, it is not
a surprise the Canadian government is actively promoting a major industry. But
the e-mails do reveal that the Government of Canada has taken licence to
actively fight policies that are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
and fight climate change - quite the opposite to what a meaningful role in a Clean
Energy Dialogue
might look like.

It is a risky strategy that isn't working. These
policies are still in place. Lobbying can't undo the reality that Canada's
oilsands are more greenhouse gas intensive than conventional fuel and will be viewed
as "dirty" unless and until they are cleaned up.

Some might ask whether the Canadian
government is simply making trade arguments. This is a convenient distraction
from what is really at stake here: Canada does not have a plan in place to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short-term or even the long-term. None of these three efforts target and "ban" oilsands.
Rather, they set a performance standard with an aim to use less
carbon-intensive oil. It is no secret that oilsands production is estimated to
be between 3.2 and 4.5 times as intensive per barrel as conventional crude oil.
It certainly begs the question why industry and the federal government aren't
rushing to meet the environmental performance standard rather than fighting it. 

And finally, these documents reveal the Government
of Canada is working too closely with industry. The Government of Canada
represents Canadians who want climate action and efforts to clean up oilsands. So
they must balance interests - not pick one interest. Survey after survey shows Canadians
want to see the Canadian government being proactive.

The urgency of
climate change demands that countries do everything they can do to make deep
reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It is totally inappropriate for the
Canadian federal government to be working against clean energy policies in
other countries. We need all these policies and more to win the global fight
against dangerous climate change.