Tzeporah Berman: Full value for energy resources is in everyone's best interest

Tzeporah Berman. Image: Flickr/Mark Belvis

Getting full value for energy resources and having a new, non-polarized conversation on the issue of getting Canadian oil to tidewater for export could actually work in favour of moving toward a low-carbon economy.

That’s the view of Tzeporah Berman, who has been described by 350.org founder Bill McKibben as an “environmental hero.” She’s the co-founder of Forest Ethics and former co-director of Greenpeace International’s Global Climate and Energy Program.

This January she joined a panel discussion at the Conference Board of Canada’s Oil and Gas Summit 2016 with Christopher Ragan, chair of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, former Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers president David Collyer, and JuneWarren-Nickle’s Energy Group CEO Bill Whitelaw to discuss the future of Canadian oil and gas.

Berman made what she described as some “risky” comments about how to navigate this future to a successful place.

“If we’re going to have an energy conscious conversation and recognize the dynamics of having to not just reduce emissions but ultimately to move away from fossil fuels, or ‘keep it in the ground,’ as our former governor of the Bank of Canada has said, then that means that we need to get the most from the resource that we have today to fuel the low carbon transition and create a new economy,” Berman said.

“For an environmentalist, that is a difficult conversation because that means that you have to get oil to tidewater. I don’t know how we unpack that conversation as a country. It’s gotten incredibly entrenched and polarized. I think we’ve had some bad process, [and] I think we’ve had too many projects proposed at once. I have never in 20 years seen more civil society engagement on energy issues, or on any environmental issues, than I have now.

“It’s not going to be easy to unpack that but we have to recognize that if we’re going to plan for a world where we have less, we have to get more from the resource that we have today; I think that just makes sense and I’m certainly am going to be looking at how to unpack that conversation so we can ensure that we have a strong economy and a strong industry moving forward.”

Berman said that Canadians need a new collective narrative on the challenges ahead that doesn’t “split us apart.”

“This is a challenge to the environmental community as well. I think that we need to recognize that we have all benefited from the fossil fuel era [and] the oilsands are in fact a technological marvel in Canada. And the fact is we didn’t know what we know today about cumulative impacts or climate change, and now we do and that means that things have to change, but we have to figure out how to do that together.”

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