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'Amazing News': Climate Activists Celebrate Victory After Forcing Company to Abandon Proposed Tar Sands Project

While welcoming this win against the fossil fuel industry, organizers vowed to "continue to fight because our planet and future is at stake."

Environmental and Indigenous activists protested outside a hall at the start of a plenary session during the COP25

Environmental and Indigenous activists protested outside a hall at the start of a plenary session during the COP25 Climate Conference on Dec. 11, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

Climate campaigners celebrated a "momentous win" in Canada after Teck Resources on Sunday withdrew its application to build a tar sands mine in Alberta and the CEO admitted that because of "growing debate" over fossil fuel use amid a the climate crisis, "it is now evidence that there is no constructive path forward for the project."

"Make no mistake, Teck abandoned the Frontier project because people are standing up to demand real climate action."
Emma Jackson, 350.org

Teck Resources president and CEO Don Lindsay added in his letter (pdf) to Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson that "questions about the societal implications of energy development, climate change, and Indigenous rights are critically important ones for Canada, its provinces, and Indigenous governments to work through."

Lindsay also suggested the public opposition that Teck has faced over Frontier will continue to impede other fossil fuel projects:

The promise of Canada's potential will not be realized until governments can reach agreement around how climate policy considerations will be addressed in the context of future responsible energy sector development. Without clarity on this critical question, the situation that has faced Frontier will be faced by future projects and it will be very difficult to attract future investment, either domestic or foreign.

"When the CEO of a major fossil fuel company releases a statement like this—it's a good sign the tide is turning," the global environmental advocacy group 350.org tweeted late Sunday, sharing Lindsay's letter.

Author and activist Bill McKibben, who co-founded 350.org, highlighted campaigners' efforts to prevent the project from moving forward. As he put it: "What great organizing!"

The group's Toronto branch told climate activists who fought against the Frontier mine: "This one goes out to you. We will continue to fight because our planet and future is at stake."

"Make no mistake, Teck abandoned the Frontier project because people are standing up to demand real climate action. This is a chance for Canada to come together and start building a Green New Deal," Emma Jackson, an organizer with 350.org based in Edmonton, said in a statement Monday. "In its letter, Teck mentioned the need for a real climate plan in Canada, and we agree."

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"But instead of pushing fossil fuel projects that divide our communities and only benefit a wealthy few, our government needs to commit to a rapid, just transition that respects Indigenous rights, supports working families by creating millions of good unionized jobs, and gives Canada the best chance it has to meet our global climate commitments," Jackson added.

Vancouver-based Teck said in 2014 that the mine would cost $20.6 billion CAD ($15.52 billion USD) to construct. The mine was expected to generate thousands of construction and operational jobs but also produce about 260,000 barrels of oil daily and four million tons of climate-heating emissions annually.

The environmental group Greenpeace Canada welcomed Teck's withdrawal decision in a tweet Sunday and pointed out that the country can now focus on creating jobs that help solve the climate crisis rather that ones which contribute to it.

The Leap—which advocates for systemic change to address the climate crisis, inequality, and racism—congratulated Indigenous opponents of the Frontier mine in a tweet Monday. The group added: "Corporations like Teck know what our government refuses to; we can't afford new fossil fuel investments in an era of climate crisis."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet was expected to make a decision on the Frontier proposal before the end of the month. Following Teck's move Sunday, Wilkinson and Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan confirmed that cabinet will no longer weigh in on the project, according to CBC News.

In 350.org's statement Monday, Canadian campaign director Amara Possian pointed to other contentious fossil fuel projects that are still set to move forward, including an expansion project for a government-owned pipeline, despite objections from climate activists and Indigenous groups.

"Justin Trudeau should be embarrassed that Teck Resources Ltd., a massive fossil fuel company, recognized the tide turning against fossil fuel expansion before his government," she said. "Whether it's Teck Frontier, Coastal GasLink, or TransMountain, history will not be kind to politicians or corporations who ignore these projects' impacts on Indigenous sovereignty and our climate."

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