"Simple", I told him, "Get it back"

I’m headed to New York City this weekend to march with tens of thousands for climate action. A number of people have been ruminating on the wisdom of travelling so far, with its carbon implications and use of resources. But as we saw with the Arab Spring, revolutions are won when people stand arm-in-arm for justice.

That’s why I’m going. I made my decision a few minutes ago after a call with the “Lobby Monitor”. They obtained a copy of the briefing binder given to Greg Rickford earlier this year (Rickford replaced Joe Oliver as Minister of Natural Resources in March 2014) and I was asked if I wished to comment on his instructions to obtain the infrastructure necessary to export oil and diversify markets (read: find new Asian customers).

After I got over the shock… I said “No, I’m not surprised, but it is an attempt to go forward looking backwards--and that doesn’t work. Around the world, especially in Asia, investment in renewable energy is outstripping investment in fossil fuels by a large margin. There is no big market for Canada’s dirty, low quality heavy oil.”

I pointed out: “There’s currently a war involving Iran and Iraq, and a civil war in Libya and the price of oil has NOT gone up. In the past, oil prices would skyrocket at the mere hint of trouble in oil producing countries.”

The reality is the market is changing. Climate responsibility aside, is it really wise to stake Canada’s future on dirty, low quality tarry oil that is expensive to produce, expensive to process, expensive to transport and costly to refine?

Which brings us back to The People's Climate March, because I also told the Lobby Monitor that no matter what the Minister’s binder says, there won’t be any more pipelines built because people simply won’t allow them.

My conversation with the Lobby Monitor reminded me of a speculative conversation I had with an oil executive a few years back: “The industry,” I was told, “would like to reach an accommodation with Sierra Club and other groups on oil…What would it take to get an agreement like the one between the forestry industry and environmentalists?”

“Simple,” I told him. “Canada Ratified the Kyoto Protocol and committed to reduce emission to 6% below 1990 levels and until 2006 Canada had a plan to reach that target. You had your friends throw that away. Get it back. Then get us a commitment to reduce emission continually until Canada and its oil industry have done everything possible to avoid a climate disaster. Then we’ll have deal.”

This is the message I will have in my heart as I march this weekend.

I know the majority of you won’t be able to make it to New York on Sunday, but you can all join me in sending a message to the Minister of Natural Resources. Think of it as the missing page in his briefing binder.


Thanks for your consideration and your ongoing support.


John Bennett, National Program Director
Sierra Club Canada Foundation
1510-1 Nicholas Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7
John on Twitter / Bennett Blog