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Thunberg brings her climate protest to Canada's oil patch



Teen activist Greta Thunberg rallied with climate change protesters in Canada's oil-rich province of Albert on Friday, as oil workers counter-protested by honking the horns of their big rigs.

"We are doing this because our future is at stake," Thunberg told a crowd organizers estimated to be in the thousands, which gathered in front of the provincial legislature in Edmonton.

"We will not be bystanders. We are doing this because we want the people in power to unite behind science."

But while many shouted their support for Thunberg, who has become the face of the fight against political inaction on global warming, counter-protesters who supported oil production traveled to the city to make their distaste for Thunberg known, blaring their horns as she spoke.

"We care for the environment, of course we do. What they need to understand is that we're hurting and we also need to care about Alberta jobs," a counter-protester told Canadian media before joining a convoy of 50 vehicles that set out from Red Deer, Alberta for the provincial capital.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, speaking at the Friday opening of a new gas pipeline in the province, which holds the world's third largest oil reserves, also had a message for Thunberg and her supporters.

"When they charged their iPhones last night, that power came from this plant," he said, pointing to the former coal-fired Keephills power plant near Edmonton that was being converted to natural gas.

"Albertans and Canadians are practical people," he said. "They like real world solutions. Calling for the end of the modern industrial economy, advocating to put millions of people out of work... is not a real world solution."

Alberta's energy industry is "taking bold risks, spending real money to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions," he added.

The province's oil sands are the single largest source of CO2 emissions in Canada. The sector has been hotly criticized by environmental groups, while a flight of foreign investment and a lack of pipelines to new markets has strangled development.

Last month, Thunberg marched in Montreal with nearly half-a-million supporters, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It was one of the largest rallies in Canadian history.

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Trudeau environment policy a letdown for young Canada activists


Bearing posters of Justin Trudeau's face, written over with green crosses and the word "pipeline," students gathered in front of the prime minister's Montreal campaign headquarters.

"Three steps forward, three steps back, that's government policy," they chanted. They -- like many other young Canadians -- were railing against what they consider deficiencies in Trudeau's environmental policy.

The nationalization of an oil pipeline in 2018 is one of the major criticisms leveled against Trudeau, who is seeking re-election in Canada's election on Monday.

The Liberal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline, which links Alberta to British Columbia, from the American energy giant Kinder Morgan for Can$4.5 billion ($2.7 billion, 2.4 billion euros).

The goal was to speed up the export of oil from Alberta to new foreign markets. In exchange, the Canadian government promised to invest the profits in green technology.

Many Canadian environmentalists viewed Trudeau's move as a betrayal. The deal may cost him crucial votes on Monday, with the prime minister currently polling neck and neck with Conservative Andrew Scheer.

For activists, Trudeau, who was a symbol of hope when he took office in 2015, is no longer a change agent but the man who didn't do enough for the environment.

- 'Huge disappointment' -

On university campuses, protesting for the environment -- one of the key issues in the election -- is all the rage.

"We're seeing an uptick in membership in all sorts of environmental groups at McGill" in recent weeks, said Audrey Nelles from Divest McGill, a student group advocating for the prestigious Montreal university to withdraw funds it has invested in fossil fuels.

"I think that after the Harper years, there was a lot of hope," said Annabelle Couture-Guay, also of Divest McGill, referring to Trudeau's Conservative predecessor Stephen Harper.

But "buying the Trans Mountain pipeline, that was a huge disappointment. It made a lot of people cynical," she said.

The pipeline issue has also provided Trudeau's rivals with plenty of ammunition.

The Liberals "tried to please everyone, and that drew criticism from the right for not having gone far enough in economic development, and from the left for having bought the pipeline," said Daniel Beland, a political specialist at McGill.

At the end of September, the New Democratic Party (NDP) -- whose leader Jagmeet Singh has risen in the polls and appeals to the Liberal left wing -- issued a five-word statement responding to Trudeau's climate plan: "You. Bought. A. Pipeline."

- Future -

Liberals have pledged net zero carbon emissions by 2050, two billion trees planted and the promotion of clean technology.

There have also been a few advances, such as a federal carbon tax plan, the protection of 14 percent of marine and coastal areas, and the publication of major scientific reports on climate change in Canada.

Young voters demanding stronger climate policy are facing a dilemma because of Canada's first-past-the-post system: voting for smaller parties can split the vote between the left and the center, opening the door for the Conservatives.

But protesters at "Fridays for Future," a movement started by teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, promise to continue applying pressure -- whether or not they are of voting age.

"Since we're young people who can't vote, we want to influence people who can," explained Marlene Gaudreau, 17, co-organizer of a Friday protest outside Trudeau's campaign office.

"We would like to have a future too," she said.

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I'm one of the lucky ones

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Environmentalists slam banks over Aramco IPO support



Banks aiding a stock market float for Saudi oil giant Aramco will be "devoid of all sincerity" regarding environmental and social concerns, green and rights groups jointly said Thursday.

Addressing directly chief executives of Bank of America, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley -- all reportedly involved in the mammoth initial public offering -- working on the IPO would call into question the lenders' commitments to the environment and human rights, the joint letter argued.

"If you go ahead as lead coordinators in raising tens of billions of dollars for the world's biggest climate polluter -- funds that will be at the disposal of a government that continues to commit appalling human rights violations -- it will be clear that your words of environmental and social concern are devoid of all sincerity," the letter said.

The ten groups, including BankTrack, Friends of the Earth United States and Oil Change International, added that "when push comes to shove your concerns for short-term profit outweigh all else".

Aramco has said it plans to float around five percent of the state-owned company in 2020 or 2021 in what could potentially be the world's biggest stock sale.

According to Bloomberg, Aramco's board is expected to give final approval by the end of this week to proceed with the sale.

It aims to raise up to $100 billion based on a $2 trillion valuation of the company, but investors have debated whether Aramco is worth that much and there have been repeated delays to the launch originally planned for last year.

The IPO forms the cornerstone of a reform programme envisaged by the kingdom's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to wean the Saudi economy off its reliance on oil.

However the letter dated October 17 argues "it can be presumed that the tens of billions of dollars pumped into Aramco... will be used not only to keep expanding oil production in the kingdom, but also to push the company's strategy of doubling its oil refining capacity".

On human rights, the letter refers to Saudi involvement in airstrikes on civilians in Yemen and the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The other signatories meanwhile comprised, Earthworks, Global Witness, Indigenous Environmental Network, Rainforest Action Network, ShareAction and Sierra Club.









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