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Jerry Brown and Justin Trudeau: Climate Advocates, or Hypocrites?

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor Jerry Brown at the United Nations Paris agreement signing ceremony dinner. Mike Bloomberg / Flickr

By Andy Rowell

Two leading political figures from the U.S. and Canada, who have boasted about the need to fight climate change, are now under fire for being climate change hypocrites: saying they care about the climate, but allowing drilling and fossil fuel infrastructure to be built anyway.

On Wednesday, more than 750 public interest groups from California and around the world, including Oil Change International, started a campaign urging the governor of California, Jerry Brown, to stop building fossil fuel infrastructure, including no new exploration permits offshore.


The letter told Brown to "take immediate action to protect those most vulnerable to climate change or lose their support for the global climate action summit that he will host five months from now in San Francisco."

The campaign has sponsored billboards in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento, placed adverts in local newspapers, and launched a thermal airship over San Francisco Bay to challenge Brown for falling short on plans to limit fossil fuels in the state.

The letter urged Brown, who has stated on numerous times that time is running out to solve climate change and who has stated that fighting the issue will be one of his signature acts, to "champion a vision for California that looks beyond the oil and gas industry to a future that is safe and healthy for everyone," the letter says.

It continues by urging Brown to "set a global precedent by becoming the first oil producing state to announce a phase-out of existing production in line with the Paris climate goals, with a just and equitable transition that protects workers, communities, and economies, starting in places that are suffering most from the impacts of fossil fuel extraction."

But Brown is not the only politician who has promoted their green credentials who is now under fire for failing to adequately act on climate.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is due to fly back from an overseas trip over the weekend to convene a meeting concerning the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline that will triple production of dirty tar sands going from Alberta to British Columbia.

The pipeline has been subject to sustained protests and legal action by the local community and BC government, led by John Horgan. Earlier this week, Kinder Morgan announced that it was stopping work until the end of May until political and legal opposition is sorted. Many people now see the pipeline as being on "life support."

Even the Economist argues that the pipeline is now likely to become "another flop," and noted that last week David McKay, head of RBC, Canada's largest bank, was concerned that investment was flowing out of the Canadian energy sector "in real time."

Trudeau continues to support the pipeline. Yesterday he tweeted that "I wouldn't approve major pipeline projects if I wasn't confident they could be done safely. And they can be done safely because we've made a massive investment in protecting our oceans and coastlines—in BC and across the country."

The tweet was accompanied by a glossy video, which was posted on Twitter and Facebook.

The reason for the meeting over the weekend, according to press reports, is that Trudeau wants to strong-arm BC Premier "John Horgan to reverse his stance." Horgan responded that he was going to "represent BC, our coast and economy."

Yesterday, 40 civil society groups sent a letter to Trudeau on behalf of their Quebec members, urging the federal government to "immediately cease supporting Kinder Morgan's pipeline. Do not turn this pipeline into your political legacy."

The letter continues:

"We remind you in particular of your government's commitment to end fossil fuel subsidies. The Trudeau government, in supporting a 20th-century sector of the economy, is failing to live up to its responsibility.

The national interest of Canada does not rest in the construction of The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, but in the inevitable energy transition that is so urgently needed in order to counter climate change.

The support that you continue to provide to the pipeline project casts a serious cloud on your credibility as a leader in the fight against climate change.

We repeat: Do not turn this pipeline into your political legacy."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.

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