OTTAWA - The Green Party welcomes a domestic court decision in Norway which charts a way forward for the conduct of environmental impact assessments. And this could have huge implications for Canada.
On January 18, 2024, an Oslo district court issued a decision in a case brought forward in Norway, regarding the scope that must be applied when carrying the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of new oil and gas fields projects. The decision, now under appeal, directs that EIAs carried out by the Government of Norway for such projects cannot be limited to the impacts of extracting those fossil fuels. They must also consider the environmental harm that may result from the future consumption of the fuel collected under the projects. The fact that those fuels may be consumed outside the country was not deemed relevant.
"It makes ample sense that assessing the environmental impact of a project would cover the totality of the environmental degradation that may result from that project", observed Elizabeth May, GPC Leader. "And the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the burning of oil and gas is bound to outweigh, by far, the emissions linked to their extraction."
The court decision was taken under Norwegian law. The rules applied are not identical to those applicable in Canada. Nevertheless, both systems follow approaches and principles agreed by both countries at the international level. "The writing is on the wall", noted Jonathan Pedneault, GPC Deputy Leader. "With concern over the climate crisis growing, it's only a matter of time before the Canadian public demands, and the Canadian courts order, that assessments of oil and gas projects include the effects of both production and consumption."
This will of course come as bad news for the oil industry. But the free lunch must be brought to an end. The industry must learn to present the full environmental effects of its activities. To limit EIAs to extraction related emissions, and then announce that such emissions are being addressed, is a form of greenwashing that can no longer be tolerated.
The Norwegian court rejected arguments to the effect that the projects under consideration would allow producing fossil fuels that are cleaner than if produced elsewhere - a type of argument that is dear to Canada. This, too, must come to pass: the time has come to look beyond excuses for not taking the right action.
The Green Party of Canada calls upon the Canadian Government to take a proactive stance on the matter, and not wait for the order of a Canadian court before doing what common sense dictates: any project review under an EIA must include its downstream environmental effects. For the production of oil and gas, this includes emissions related to consumption. That is the right thing to do, for the environment and for the future of Canadians.
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Fabrice Lachance Nové