McKenna won't say if Canada can develop oilsands and meet climate targets

MONTREAL – Canada’s environment minister wouldn’t say on Tuesday how her government plans to meet its climate change commitments and also green-light new pipeline projects.

Catherine McKenna told reporters after a luncheon speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations that Canada needs to de-carbonize its economy but stressed it won’t happen overnight.

“We have made a lot of investments in green technology and clean technology and that’s the direction of our government,” she said. “But it’s clear we also need jobs.”

Canada has come under increased pressure from environmentalists to explain how the country can continue to develop Alberta’s oilsands and also meet ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets.

The country’s energy industry is forecasting an expansion of the oilsands to meet growing world demand.

TransCanada wants to meet part of that demand and its Energy East Pipeline proposal would see 1.1 million barrels of oil a day move from Alberta and Saskatchewan to New Brunswick.

Climate research suggests, however, that most of Canada’s oilsands need to stay in the ground if world temperature increases are to remain below two degrees Celsius.

Canada’s current climate goals are to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 when compared with 2005 levels.

“Look, we need to grow our economy as well,” she said when asked whether Canada can simultaneously reduce emissions and build pipelines. “You can’t overnight say there is going to be no development (in the oil sector). But we’re moving in this direction and I think our budget is a very clear step towards that.”

She said her government is pledging $5 billion over five years to build “green infrastructure” across the country, such as wastewater treatment facilities.

McKenna added the recently tabled federal budget also includes $1 billion over four years for investments in green technology.

“We are going to be in a period of transition but we are moving in that direction,” McKenna said.