Canada: A Climate Action Leader?

Canada: a country known for its multicultural identity, friendly people, boundless, rugged landscapes, and bountiful natural resources. In Canada, you can count on clean air and drinking water, pristine lakes and oceans, lush forests, and vast mountain ranges… But, you can also count on the extraction and use of fossil fuels which are becoming increasingly problematic in regards to meeting Canada’s environmental commitments and sustainable development goals.

The Alberta tar sands, commonly referred to as the biggest eye-sore on the planet, is an area of 142,200 square kilometres in northern Alberta under which lies vast reservoirs of oil. Alberta possesses one of the largest oil reserves in the world, placing third after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. In 2016, the tar sands extracted 2.5 million barrels per day of crude bitumen, a heavy oil that is used for creating things like asphalt. According to Below2°C, Alberta’s share of total GHG emissions in Canada is 37.5%, compared with the most populous province, Ontario, whose share totals around 23.3%.

The extraction of these fossil fuels is coming into conflict with Canada’s environmental commitments and sustainable development goals, which include taking ‘effective action on climate change’, fostering ‘safe and healthy communities’, investing in ‘clean energy’ and ‘clean growth’, and keeping the coasts and oceans healthy. The attainment of these goals becomes difficult when the federal government pushes through pipeline projects without the consultation of the communities these projects will directly affect, not only in the case of a spill but starting with the construction itself.

The Canadian government likes to boast itself as a climate action leader, and yet the government is doing very little in this regard. When hearing the support for pipeline projects and the Alberta tar sands in political discourse, the term ‘national interest’ always comes into play. It is in the ‘national interest’ to invest in fossil fuel production. It is in the ‘national interest’ to construct pipelines (through Indigenous territories) in order to get the oil to market. What seems, however, to not be in the national interest is committing to reaching sustainable development goals in order to protect and preserve the beautiful place we call home.

If the Canadian government wants public support for pipeline projects, then it needs to commit itself to keep its promises to the Canadian people regarding environmental protection. Canadians want to know that our land, homes, and families will be protected- we don’t want to feel like our government values money and temporary economic development over our future and very lives.

Cyan Abbey



Government of Alberta. “Oil Sands: Facts and Stats”. b6d1-4dae-8356-44e27304ef78/download/FSOilSands.pdf

Government of Canada. “Achieving a Sustainable Future: A Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada”.

Montpellier, Rolly. “Alberta’s Tar Sands Expansion is Killing Canada’s National Climate Goals”. Below2oC, 10 April 2018. goals/

Photo by Cris DiNoto on Unsplash

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