03/06/2013 12:50 EST | Updated 05/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Obama, Dix Talk Climate Action Amid Pipeline Decision

U.S. President Barack Obama and B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix can choose to plot a course. A course towards more dependence on dirty tar sands oil -- a business-as-usual approach -- or, towards a shift in focus with a reduced dependence.


A few days ago, I noticed something pretty striking when reading the U.S. State Department's report about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. It made me wonder if the U.S. officials are really paying attention to what's happening up here in B.C.

The report claimed the pipeline is "not likely" to "result in significant environmental effects" and that it would make "no substantive change in global greenhouse gas emissions." The underlying assumption was that even if Keystone XL wasn't built that Enbridge and/or Kinder Morgan's pipelines would be built and the tar sands would continue to grow.

Meanwhile last weekend, the clear favourite to be the next premier of B.C., NDP Leader Adrian Dix, made climate change and pipelines a key feature of a campaign launch speech in Burnaby. Clearly Dix is of course much more aware of the public opposition to these pipeline proposals on Canada's West Coast.

I was in the room for Dix's speech, and I was very pleased to hear the B.C. NDP leader make multiple references to our responsibility to take action to stop climate change and renew his pledge again to oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.

This echoed the strong words from U.S. President Barack Obama who also emphasized the issue of climate change in his inaugural speech and State of the Union address. The re-elected president said: "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

Right now, the whole world is watching to see if Obama's talk about climate change will impact his decision to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project. Regardless of the State Department's report, ultimately it takes Obama's signature to make this proposed pipeline a reality.

The State Department report was written as if we were living in a "business as usual" world. The reality is that the business-as-usual mentality must be a thing of the past if we are to truly act to stop climate change. Sure, if the tar sands was going to expand at the same rate regardless of the Keystone XL decision then they would be right; it wouldn't make a difference in terms of greenhouse gases. But that isn't the case as none of those pipelines are a done deal -- far from it.

Dix's NDP is promising -- if it forms government in B.C. -- to establish a "made in B.C." environmental review of the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines which would take back B.C.'s power to reject these proposed pipelines through our province. This is an important step since the Stephen Harper government has made it crystal clear they will continue to push these pipelines through regardless of the opposition in B.C.

There is a massive movement to stop these tar sands pipelines on both sides of the border, and we are working hand in hand with people all over the globe who want to see this continent play a responsible role in the global community in the era of climate change. Those of us that are on the ground working hard to stop these pipelines are seeing the world very differently than the U.S. State Department. We see real momentum for meaningful change.

Obama and Dix can choose to plot a course. A course towards more dependence on dirty tar sands oil -- a business-as-usual approach -- or, towards a shift in focus with a reduced dependence. The good news is that choosing the better path actually creates opportunity for lots and lots of jobs. Moving beyond tar sands oil means more public transit, more high speed rail, more green building and, overall, a more diversified economy.

Ultimately, make no mistake, we will stop these pipelines and the growth of the tar sands with or without these political leaders. Sooner or later in a democracy, people power will win. Their comments on climate action are a good sign, but these pipeline decisions are a real fork in the road.

Both of these men, Obama and Dix, hold in their hands the power to reject tar sands pipelines and in doing so put into action their pledge to reduce the kind of pollution that causes climate change. It's up to them to decide which side of this struggle they are really on.

The options at hand are either the side of big oil corporations or the side of the people on planet earth who want to see change for the better. To put it plainly, they have to decide if they want to be on the right side of history or not.

Photo gallery Keystone XL Protests See Gallery