Paris and Pipelines? Canada's Climate Policy Puzzle

(2018) 32:1 Journal of Environmental Law and Practice 47

28 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2017 Last revised: 30 Aug 2018

See all articles by Jason MacLean

Jason MacLean

University of Saskatchewan - College of Law

Date Written: August 8, 2017


Can Canada build new oil pipelines and reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions pursuant to its international legal commitment under the Paris climate change agreement? Moreover, can Canada simultaneously promote oil sands production and sustainability? A great many otherwise reasonable Canadians – including academics, NGO and government policy analysts, media pundits, politicians, and members of the general public – insist we can. Paris versus pipelines, on this Panglossian view, is a false choice. This get-rich-and-save-the-environment-too view, however, is fatefully mistaken – the federal government’s own GHG emissions data leave absolutely no doubt about this. But it is mistaken in an interesting and instructive way: Only by excavating and exposing the normative foundations of this view will Canada be able to effectively chart a course towards net zero carbon emissions and sustainability.

This article proceeds as follows. Part II examines Canada’s emerging climate change policies through the conceptual prism of Canada as a “carbon democracy.” Parts III and IV use the concept of “carbon democracy” to unpack and explain the contradictions of Canadian climate change policy vis-à-vis climate science and economics, respectively. Part V concludes by sketching out an alternative, democratic pathway for Canadian climate change and sustainability policy.

Keywords: Climate Change, Paris Agreement, Sustainability, Pipelines, Carbon Pricing

Suggested Citation

MacLean, Jason, Paris and Pipelines? Canada's Climate Policy Puzzle (August 8, 2017). (2018) 32:1 Journal of Environmental Law and Practice 47. Available at SSRN:

Jason MacLean (Contact Author)

University of Saskatchewan - College of Law ( email )

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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