Q&A - Natural Resources Minister
Q&A - NATURAL RESOURCES MINISTER JIM CARR
WaterToday - The Liberal government maintains that a clean environment and a strong economy must go hand in hand. The fossil fuel sector is one of the main motors of the Canadian economy. To continue doing so, it needs access to markets. Pipelines are generally seen as the cheapest way to move oil. How do you reconcile this with the fact that pipelines will lead to higher production/consumption of fossil fuels and indirectly increase GHG emissions?
Minister Carr - I think our position on the relationship between environmental sustainability and economic growth was articulated very early by the Prime Minister and can be seen in his mandate letters to Ministers, including me. The Prime Minister has said that it's one of the most important obligations of the Government of Canada to ensure that our natural resources are moved to market sustainably.
That is the value that drives the interim principles we announced in January. And this, I think, creates the best set of circumstances for Canadians to believe the process is a fair one, with the objective in mind that we want to move our natural resources sustainably. That's why we believe it's important to assess the impact of proposed new pipelines on upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and we are inviting Canadians to express their views on these assessments for individual projects.
WaterToday - Since January 2016, 'climate-change impact' has been added to the environmental assessment of pipelines. How do you see any pipeline being approved with this new GHG rule?
Minister Carr - The interim principles I announced with the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change in January included a requirement that direct and upstream GHG emissions linked to projects under review are assessed. My colleagues at Environment and Climate Change Canada have already publicly released the findings from a number of major resource projects, including the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project.
We are showing leadership by restoring public confidence in the way major resource projects are assessed and reviewed, by renewing our nation to nation relationship with indigenous peoples through meaningful consultation and by basing regulatory decisions on science and evidence, including assessments of direct and upstream GHG emissions.
WaterToday - Carbon taxes are generally accepted as a valid tool to mitigate greenhouse gas. Is this an instrument you intend to explore and can you tell us how they work exactly?
Minister Carr - Simply put, carbon pricing means attaching a price to carbon emissions. It makes it more expensive for companies to pollute and creates an incentive to pollute less.
We recognize that combatting climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, and we can no longer talk about resource development or economic growth without considering environmental protection. That's why our government believes carbon pricing is an effective tool to reduce emissions and stimulate investments in green infrastructure and low carbon innovation. As part of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, we are working to encourage the international adoption of carbon pricing strategies, and collaborating at home with provinces and territories to take action on climate change—including putting a price on carbon.
WaterToday - On the NRCan website, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is said to be "essential if Canada and the world are to address the carbon challenge.” Yet in a 2010 WaterToday interview with Liberal Member Francis Scarpaleggia, he stated that CCS was of little use to oil sands open-pit mining and that the impact of pumping all that carbon undergound was largely unknown. Have there been further developments since then that support NRCan's view?
Minister Carr - Our government believes clean technologies are a key component of promoting sustainable economic growth and will play a critical role in Canada's transition to a low-carbon economy. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) certainly can be a major part of that transition.
Indeed, Canada has already taken important steps to advance CCS technology in the oil sands. These include two projects that were co-funded in part by the governments of Canada and Alberta: the Quest project and the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line project. Furthermore, the Memorandum of Understanding signed this year between Canada, the United States, and Mexico commits us to exchanging information and promoting joint action to advance the deployment of carbon capture, use and storage.
Innovation is critical. That's why we're investing in clean growth, energy efficiency and green infrastructure. We are also investing to help businesses and entrepreneurs – especially those in clean technologies – become more innovative, competitive, and successful, which will ultimately improve Canada's economy and create well-paying middle-class jobs.
WaterToday - Pipelines have terrible spillage records - Enbridge, 804 spills between 1999 and 2010; TransCanada 152 spills since 2010 - they are a clear threat to our water resources. Will future environmental assessments clearly deal with this issue?
Minister Carr - Our environmental assessments do consider the likelihood and effects of accidents and malfunctions, including spills. In fact, pipelines in Canada are strictly regulated by the National Energy Board (NEB) to ensure protection of public health, safety, and the environment.
The Board has numerous specific requirements to ensure such protections, such as shut-off valves near water bodies, pipeline integrity management requirements, and automated leak-detection and shut-off systems to stop leaks.
Furthermore, the Pipeline Safety Act will be coming into force later this month, introducing absolute liability for all pipelines regulated by the NEB. This is yet another step in establishing confidence in a new, robust assessment process for major resources projects.
WaterToday - It is part of your mandate to support innovation and the use of clean technologies in our natural resource sectors. While the clean tech industry in Canada has been growing, it is said to be losing market share due to lack of funding and high charges on debt financing by Canadian financial institutions. How will you address this?
Minister Carr - While Canada's clean technology sector has been growing faster than the overall economy, it's growing more slowly than in other countries, and we are determined to reverse that trend.
That's why we made sure we were among the 20 founding nations of Mission Innovation, an ambitious new global partnership to push clean technology like never before. To this end, we announced last week that we will double our 2014–2015 funding of $387 million for clean energy and clean technology research and development to $775 million by 2020.
Budget 2016 reflects these commitments and includes $1 billion over the next four years, to support clean technologies, including in the energy, mines, forestry, fisheries and agriculture sectors.
WaterToday - Water is a natural resource, yet it seems to be low on NRCan's list of priorities. For example, with only 13 of 30 watersheds mapped, Canada seriously lags behind the US when it comes to groundwater mapping. Do you expect to accelerate this process?
Minister Carr - Well, as Canadians, we are very fortunate to live in a country with enormous water resources. Our department collaborates with a number of other federal departments as well as provincial and territorial governments, to better understand, preserve, and protect our groundwater resources.
As of today, Natural Resources Canada has completed assessments of 19 key aquifers, and another three aquifers will be assessed by 2019. This critical information is shared with the provinces and territories to enable them to continue regional mapping.
We are also looking at shifting to a national-scale assessment — supported by available Earth Observation science and technology — that will enable us to complement the assessment of groundwater resources in Canada.
WaterToday - A large part of your mandate has to do with inspiring Canadians to innovate. Yet, we hear little that is concrete on this front.How do you intend to trickle down this message to inspire Canadians and entice the kids in the garage to come up with creative solutions?
Minister Carr - Young people have always been at the leading edge of new ideas and approaches. They are typically the ones who challenge the status quo; they have the energy, the ideas, and the desire to do things differently - and better.
Through our Innovation Agenda, led by Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, we are taking a comprehensive government-wide approach to supporting innovation. This will include making investments where they are needed – in infrastructure, research programs, commercialization efforts, etc. - but also in changing the way we work with our partners in the private and academic sectors, and other levels of government, to encourage our young people to start dreaming at a young age.
Through programs like PromoScience and Let's Talk Science, we are also working to promote a culture where young people are engaged in and excited about science.
WaterToday - Looking to the future. When our reliance on fossil fuels decreases, is there any reason why pipelines could not be used to move water where it is needed?
Minister Carr - The global demand for crude oil and natural gas is projected to increase for the foreseeable future, so I think it's too early to start speculating about alternative uses for Canada's pipeline system. Going forward, we will continue to re-evaluate our resource needs and ensure that we have the right infrastructure in place to move our resources to market in a sustainable manner.
Commissionner for the Environment - Julie Gelfand
Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs, Bill Mauro
Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation
Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, with input from Finance, Transport and Agriculture Canada