Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson attracted fury and ridicule when he said Monday—just hours after the United Nations warned in no uncertain terms that continuing to burn fossil fuels will result in catastrophic consequences—that the country needs to secure more revenue from the Trans Mountain pipeline to achieve its long-term decarbonization goals.
"The IPCC was clear yesterday: we must accelerate our transition off fossil fuels. Millions of lives are at stake. Knowing this, and still sinking billions into expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline, is criminal."
According to Wilkinson, sending 890,000 barrels of crude per day from Alberta to British Columbia—where, earlier this summer, a heatwave killed hundreds of people and a wildfire incinerated the town of Lytton—would be a good thing because it would help finance Canada's clean energy transition.
"Canada needs to ensure that in the context of that transition, it's extracting full value for its resources and using that money to push forward in terms of reducing emissions," Wilkinson told guest host Katie Simpson during an interview on CBC's "Power & Politics."
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has "got to be part of the transition," Wilkinson said, because "part of the transition is being able to raise the revenues that enable you to actually make the investments that are required" to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.
Observers were quick to point out the absurdity of Wilkinson's comments—made just hours after he issued a statement in response to Monday's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which stated unequivocally that failing to rapidly slash greenhouse gas emissions will endanger vulnerable populations and future generations.
One critic compared Wilkinson's defense of maximizing oil pipeline revenue to address the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency to something an official might say in one of the fictional dystopias described by Franz Kafka or George Orwell.
Environmental justice advocates from 350 Canada said Tuesday that "this is climate denial. From Canada's Environment Minister no less."
The group emphasized that the IPCC's report was clear about the need to "accelerate our transition off fossil fuels" to save millions of lives.
"Knowing this, and still sinking billions into expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline, is criminal," 350 Canada added.
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Kenny Stancil.