During a rally/press conference before the September 27 climate strike/protest in Montréal a friend interrupted the Prime Minister to label him a “climate criminal”. When Trudeau joined the enormous march, I dogged him yelling “criminel climatique/climate criminal”. A week later I was detained and given a $150 ticket for yelling “climate criminal” outside a café where Trudeau was holding a press conference. While some might consider it hyperbolic, the case for labeling Trudeau a “climate criminal” is overwhelming:
The Liberals spent $4.5 billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline and related infrastructure. This important government intervention is designed to expand extraction of heavy carbon emitting tar sands oil that must stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate disturbances.
Two years ago Trudeau told oil executives in Houston, “no country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.” With these words the PM made it clear his government chose business (and profits) as usual over the survival of human civilization.
The Liberals broke their pre-election promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Ottawa continues to offer a few billion dollars a year in different forms of aid to oil, gas and other fossil fuel firms.
The Liberals eliminated the planned toll on the recently opened $4.4 billion Champlain Bridge to the South Shore of Montréal. The move tells suburbanites the federal government will aggressively subsidize the most costly, unhealthy and ecologically destructive form of land transport for every metre of their 10, 40 or 80 kilometre daily drive (alone) into the city.
The Liberals spent tens of billions of dollars on heavy carbon emitting fighter jets and naval vessels. In the best-case scenario, these weapons will only emit greenhouse gases during training. In the worst-case scenario, they will spew GHG as well as destroy lives and ecosystems. Additionally, militarism is intimately tied to nation state competition, which undercuts the international cooperation needed to mitigate the climate crisis.
By themselves any one of these acts should be viewed as a form of climate criminality. Heck, I’d label as a climate criminal a prime minister who didn’t buy a tar sands pipeline, declare support for extracting tar sands, break its promise to end fossil fuel subsidies, eliminate an important auto toll or spend on arms procurement. Simply failing to declare, legislate and fund a massive justice-based transition off of fossil fuels should be viewed as an act of climate criminality.
The situation is dire. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere is growing precipitously, increasing temperature and the number of “natural” disasters. Hundreds of thousands are already dying as a result of anthropocentric climate disturbances and the numbers are projected to grow.
The other reason it is criminal for a PM to fail to pursue a justice-based transition is Canada’s large current and accumulated carbon footprint. Per capita emissions in many African countries amount to barely one per cent of Canada’s rate. Even more startling is the historical imbalance among nations in global greenhouse gas emissions. According to a 2009 Guardian comparison, Canada released 23,669 million metric tons of carbon dioxide between 1900 and 2004 while Afghanistan released 77 million metric tons, Chad 7 million metric tons, Morocco 812 million metric tons and Egypt 3,079 million metric tons. Canada’s contribution to global warming over this period was more than the combined total of every sub-Saharan African country.
A sense of ‘carbon equity’ demands a rapid cut in Canadian GHG emissions. So does economic justice. The wealthiest countries should be the first to leave fossil fuel wealth in the ground. Only a sociopath would suggest the Congo, Haiti or Bangladesh stop extracting fossil fuels before Canada. Additionally, Canada has far greater means to transition off of fossil fuels than many other places.
Is Andrew Scheer worse than Trudeau? Of course. But does acknowledgement that someone is worse make you less guilty?
Wherever he speaks Trudeau should be tagged as a climate criminal.