11/30/2016 03:02 EST | Updated 12/01/2016 08:01 EST

Climate Leaders Don't Build Pipelines

Chris Wattie / Reuters
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Back in 2011, Canada made history by being the first country to formally pull out of the Kyoto Protocol. It was a bold move, but yesterday, Justin Trudeau actually managed to one up the feat, albeit in different style. On Tuesday, he approved the Kinder Morgan and Line 3 tar sands pipelines making Canada the first country on the planet to, in effect, promise to break the commitments they made to under the Paris Climate Agreement.

According to the commitment Canada made under the Paris Agreement, called an "intended nationally determined contribution" or INDC, Canada has to reduce our national emissions 200 megatonnes by 2030. The decision to approve the Kinder Morgan and Line 3 pipelines not only make meeting this promise virtually impossible, they render other progress Canada has made on climate, essentially irrelevant.

It's enough to guarantee that 1.5ºC limit that Canada championed, and the global south demanded for survival, will be laughably out of reach.

Like many things with climate change, it's the math that is terrifyingly simple. On the good news side, Canada recently announced plans to implement a national carbon tax and phase out coal fired power, two moves that would mean an 18 megatonne and 5 megatonne, respectively, reduction in our emissions by 2030. On the other side of the ledger, Kinder Morgan would add well over 100 megatonnes and Line 3 would add somewhere in the range of 90 megatonnes.

In other words, these two pipelines alone have blown our commitment, and Justin Trudeau has found a way to break the Paris Agreement before Donald Trump even had a chance to.

When he was approving these pipelines, Justin Trudeau told the media that "there isn't a country in the world that would find billions of barrels of oil and leave it in the ground." But that's exactly what we need to do. We have to leave those billions of barrels in the ground.

According to a report by Oil Change International, all the oil, coal and gas already in operation is enough to ensure that the world will not meet the 2ºC limit in the Paris Agreement. It's enough to guarantee that 1.5ºC limit that Canada championed, and the global south demanded for survival, will be laughably out of reach.

justin trudeau paris agreement

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signs the Paris Agreement on climate change at United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

For Trudeau and his compatriots, the decision to approve these pipelines was political. It was a choice to stand with the fossil fuel industry, the same people responsible not just for creating the climate crisis, but some of whom are under investigation for lying to the public about it. But more than this, it was a choice to ignore the cries of those people most impacted by climate change.

It was a choice to look at small island states, like the ones Catherine McKenna joined in calling for a 1.5ºC climate target in Paris, and decide that their survival mattered less than political expediency. It was a choice to ignore the voices of the millennial generation, who played a decisive role in putting the Liberals in office in 2015. It was a choice that will haunt this government.

Climate leaders don't build pipelines. It's more than a slogan, it's a fact. And by approving these two tar sands pipelines, Justin Trudeau has made it abundantly clear, this government is only interested in looking like they care about climate change, not in actually doing what it takes to stop it.

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