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There's one area in which Justin Trudeau is no progressive

The Canadian golden boy has a seriously dirty track record on tar sands. 

Canada’s golden boy, Justin Trudeau, promised to rebrand Canada as climate progressive. When signing the Paris Agreement last year he said "climate change will test our intelligence, our compassion and our will” and pledged Canada would reduce carbon emissions 30 per cent by 2030.

Fast forward a year, and it is clear that the man who has charmed many with his boyish good looks and liberal attitudes has failed this climate change test. Indeed, his environmentally destructive actions means he should be sent to the naughty step.

Last November Trudeau approved two pipelines that will pump nearly a million barrels of tar sands crude oil per day over the next decade from Alberta to global markets. That coincides with the same timeline under which Canada is supposed to peak and then reduce greenhouse gas emissions under their pledges to the Paris agreement.

A third project is the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Campaigners rejoiced when Barack Obama finally rejected the plans for a 1,180 mile pipeline between Canada and refineries on the Texas coast. But an executive order by President Donald Trump has resurrected the project.

Tar sands oil is seriously dirty stuff and has a massive impact on the environment. The carbon emissions related to exploiting this crudest form of oil are two to four times higher than conventional oil, while the estimated tar sands reserves contain enough CO2 to blow half the remaining carbon budget before we reach two degrees of warming.

But it’s not just the climate impacts. Tar sand deposits cover approximately 140,000 square kilometres of Alberta, an area greater than the size of England, and the toxic sludge created by the mining process seeps into natural water ways contaminating fish and other wildlife. Tar sands operations also poison the air by releasing large volumes of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere.

Trudeau’s response to all this is to claim there is no conflict between future growth in exploiting tar oil sands and tackling climate change. Such a claim shows he has definitely failed the intelligence test he set himself when signing up to the Paris Agreement. Even his own government rejects such a claim.

A recent report by a federal agency tasked with reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions has concluded that Canada's emissions will most likely increase rather than decrease between now and 2030 thanks to Alberta's tar sands. So despite Trudeau’s stated ambitions to curtail emissions the country will fail to achieve targets agreed under the Paris agreement.

Applauded for distancing himself from Trump over his attitude to feminism, immigration and Muslims, Trudeau has quickly found something to unite two apparently incompatible ideologies. Where there’s a chance to get your hands dirty with lucrative tar sands deals, liberal values can take a back seat. Indeed, at two official meetings with Trump, Trudeau pressed not for the rights of women, immigrants or Muslims, but pledged instead Canada's steadfast support for the $8-billion Keystone XL project.

"We know our transition off fossil fuels is going to take a long time,” Trudeau has said. Having failed the intelligence part of the test he set himself when signing up to the Paris agreement, he looks set also to fail the test on compassion and resolve too.

2016 was the warmest year on record and 16 of the 17 hottest years have now occurred this century. Scientists warn that the impacts of climate change on people are coming sooner and with more ferocity than expected. We simply don’t have "a long time" to kick our fossil fuel habit; we must leave the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground, especially such damaging sources as tar sands.

Thankfully, while Trudeau seems to be following the will of oil corporations, others are willing us towards a brighter future. Fossil fuel divestment is growing as young and old alike pressure their universities and pension funds to rein back investment in coal, oil and gas. With the price of wind and solar tumbling, renewable energy generation is also mushrooming. So whatever dirty deals President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau strike up, the energy transition is unstoppable.

It is this rapid transition that gives us hope that we can leave a safe and secure planet for future generations rather than one where climate instability drives people from their homes and destroys their livelihoods. That transition, Mr Trudeau, is surely an act of compassion.

Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the southwest of England, elected in May 2014. She has published widely, particularly on issues related to green economics. Molly was formerly Professor of Strategy and Sustainability at the University of Roehampton. She is Green Party parliamentary candidate for Bristol West.

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After a year of chaos, MPs from all parties are trying to stop an extreme Brexit

The Greens are calling for a cross-party commission on Brexit.

One year ago today, I stood on Westminster Bridge as the sun rose over a changed country. By a narrow margin, on an unexpectedly high turnout, a majority of people in Britain had chosen to leave the EU. It wasn’t easy for those of us on the losing side – especially after such scaremongering from the leaders of the Leave campaign – but 23 June 2016 showed the power of a voting opportunity where every vote counted.

A year on from the vote, and the process is in chaos. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The Leave campaign deliberately never spelled out any detailed plan for Brexit, and senior figures fought internal battles over which model they preferred. One minute Britain would be like Norway, then we’d be like Canada – and then we’d be unique. After the vote Theresa May promised us a "Red, White and Blue Brexit" – and then her ministers kept threatening the EU with walking away with no deal at all which, in fairness, would be unique(ly) reckless. 

We now have our future being negotiated by a government who have just had their majority wiped out. More than half of voters opted for progressive parties at the last election – yet the people representing us in Brussels are the right-wing hardliners David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson.

Despite widespread opposition, the government has steadfastly refused to unilaterally guarantee EU citizens their rights. This week it has shown its disregard for the environment as it published a Queen’s Speech with no specific plans for environmental protection in the Brexit process either. 

Amid such chaos there is, however, a glimmer of hope. MPs from all parties are working together to stop an extreme Brexit. Labour’s position seems to be softening, and it looks likely that the Scottish Parliament will have a say on the final deal too. The Democratic Unionist Party is regressive in many ways, but there’s a good chance that the government relying on it will soften Brexit for Northern Ireland, at least because of the DUP's insistence on keeping the border with Ireland open. My amendments to the Queen’s speech to give full rights to EU nationals and create an Environmental Protection Act have cross-party support.

With such political instability here at home – and a growing sense among the public that people deserve a final say on any deal - it seems that everything is up for grabs. The government has no mandate for pushing ahead with an extreme Brexit. As the democratic reformers Unlock Democracy said in a recent report “The failure of any party to gain a majority in the recent election has made the need for an inclusive, consensus based working even more imperative.” The referendum should have been the start of a democratic process, not the end of one.

That’s why Greens are calling for a cross-party commission on Brexit, in order to ensure that voices from across the political spectrum are heard in the process. And it’s why we continue to push for a ratification referendum on the final deal negotiated by the government - we want the whole country to have the last word on this, not just the 650 MPs elected to the Parliament via an extremely unrepresentative electoral system.

No one predicted what would happen over the last year. From the referendum, to Theresa May’s disastrous leadership and a progressive majority at a general election. And no one knows exactly what will happen next. But what’s clear is that people across this country should be at the centre of the coming debate over our future – it can’t be stitched up behind closed doors by ministers without a mandate.

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.

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