Environmental groups call on Ottawa to reject liquefied natural gas

A coalition of environmental groups is calling on Ottawa to reject proposals to build liquefied natural gas export facilities on Canada’s east coast, saying such projects will create “climate-destroying emissions.”

The coalition, which also includes the Sierra Club Canada Foundation and Climate Action Network Canada, issued a statement Thursday that also highlights the financial risks associated with multi-billion dollar ventures that could take years.

“On the global stage, Canadian politicians are making impassioned speeches about climate action, but their words will be revealed as empty promises if the federal government approves new fossil gas infrastructure on the east coast,” Kelsey Lane, climate policy coordinator for the Halifax-based Ecology Action Center, said in the declaration.

On Wednesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly told an audience at the Montreal Chamber of Commerce that Germany wants to invest in LNG projects in Canada.

Calgary-based Pieridae Energy has been promoting construction of a multi-billion dollar LNG export terminal in Goldboro, NS since 2011, but halted the project last summer due to “cost and time constraints” related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company, which could not be reached for comment, planned to pipeline natural gas from Western Canada and then ship it by tanker to European customers.

However, after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, demand for natural gas has increased amid fears that the Russians will cut off supplies to Europe, and Germany in particular.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is expected to visit Canada later this month, the prime minister’s office said in a statement in June. Published reports show that Scholz would like to get more natural gas from Canada.

Earlier this year, Pieridae CEO Alfred Sorensen issued a statement saying that the invasion of Ukraine has prompted countries to look for a safe supply of natural gas.

“Pieridae’s proposed net-zero LNG export project off the east coast continues to make sense, and talks with a broad list of stakeholders are ongoing,” he said on May 12. “Many want Canada to provide meaningful leadership to support a long-term solution by supplying Canadian natural gas overseas in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.”

Gretchen Fitzgerald, director of national programs for the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, said the federal government is using the war in Ukraine to trick the public into believing LNG projects are a necessary evil.

“LNG export plants will reduce our chances of meeting emissions targets,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “And all this for projects that have no hope of getting online faster than truly clean alternatives, such as wind, solar and energy efficiency.”

Meanwhile, dormant plans for other LNG terminals in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have also recently received renewed interest.

On June 29, New Brunswick Prime Minister Blaine Higgs said a liquefied natural gas plant in Saint John, NB, could be modified to reverse flow and help reduce Europe’s reliance on fossil fuels from Russia. The plant currently imports liquefied natural gas from the United States, but it could be adapted to export gas in about three years, he said.

Higgs said the owner of the Saint John plant, Spanish company Repsol, has already spoken with the federal government about converting the facility into an export terminal.

But that would be a mistake, said Louise Comeau, climate change director at New Brunswick’s Conservation Council.

“Canada has pledged to limit greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector,” she said in the statement released Thursday. “Any new methane gas infrastructure must meet the limit. We cannot continue to weaken climate policy in Canada through the fossil gas industry.”

The coalition says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the world’s leading scientific authority on the subject — has stated that carbon emissions must begin to decline before 2025 if the planet is to avoid the worst-case climate change scenario.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 4, 2022.

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