Canadian Prime Minister Wins Award for Being Pro-Oil Sands and Pro-Environment

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is treading a fine line between supporting the economy of oil-sands dependent western Canada and fighting climate change, as impossible as that might sound. His efforts were rewarded by the energy industry.

2 minute read

March 14, 2017, 7:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the keynote speaker at last week's CERAWeek energy conference in Houston, Texas, billed as "the premier annual international gathering of energy industry leaders, experts, government officials and policymakers, leaders from the technology, financial, and industrial communities." 

Trudeau received  "the CERAWeek Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award for his efforts to balance the economy with the environment in his government's policy prescriptions," reports Peter Zimonjic for CBC News.

At the end of the speech Trudeau received a standing ovation from the 1,200 people in the packed room, several of whom commented to CBC News that such a warm reception for a keynote speaker was out of the ordinary for the event.

The excerpt from his speech, widely highlighted by the media, may not have been received as well by his more progressive constituents in Canada as well as by environmentalists in other countries.

"No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil and just leave it in the ground," he said. "The resource will be developed. Our job is to ensure this is done responsibly, safely and sustainably."

Canada has the third largest proven reserves of oil after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, however, most are in the form of oil sands, aka tar sands, widely considered the dirtiest form of oil, as they produce more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil when evaluated using a "full-fuel cycle" analysis. If any form of oil is meant to be "kept in the ground" to fight climate change, it would be oil sands, according to many in the environmental community.

Referencing a 1980s energy policy developed by his late father, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and his predecessor, Stephen Harper, the 45-year-old leader of the Liberal Party said the "National Energy Program hurt both growth and jobs while the Conservatives failed to understand that the economy and climate change are linked," adds Zimonjic.

Touting his government's approval of new pipelines, and the Liberal's national plan to put a price on carbon, which were achieved at the same time, Trudeau said his government had achieved some good first steps at growing the economy and protecting the environment — but that more work still needs to be done.

Similarly, President Donald Trump has also approved controversial pipelines, but unlike Trudeau, both he and his environmental administrator question climate change. Rather than showing a willingness to improve the environment, Trump's commitment is to remove what he regards as burdensome regulations on industry.

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Related in Planetizen:
What to Expect from Canada's New Prime Minster Justin Trudeau on Climate ChangeNovember 27, 2015: Canada's recent change to a Liberal government means Stephen Harper's legacy in oil gas is at risk. Change is coming.

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