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Alice Munro among Nobel prizewinners urging Trudeau to deny oilsands project

Canadian author Alice Munro is among dozens of Nobel prizewinners urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to deny approval to a massive oilsands project in Alberta. Munro, Canadian biologist Jack W.
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Canadian author Alice Munro is among dozens of Nobel prizewinners urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to deny approval to a massive oilsands project in Alberta.

Munro, Canadian biologist Jack W. Szostak and 40 other global winners from various fields signed a letter published in the Guardian decrying the Teck Resources Ltd. proposal.

Also addressed to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, the letter in the U.K. publication declares: "There is no room for expansion of the fossil-fuel sector."

The signatories call fossil-fuel projects "an affront to our state of climate emergency," as well as incompatible with Canada's pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work towards reconciliation with First Nations.

A decision on the $20.6-billion, 260,000-barrel-per-day project is supposed to come before the end of the month. The project is expected to produce about four million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year over 40 years.

Munro won the 2013 literature prize while Szostak won the 2009 prize in medicine. The project has also drawn criticism from Hollywood stars Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, and Joaquin Phoenix.

The letter, which appeared on the Guardian's website Friday afternoon, takes Trudeau to task for considering any new fossil fuel developments at all.

"The mere fact that they warrant debate in Canada should be seen as a disgrace," the prizewinners write.

"They are wholly incompatible with your government’s recent commitment to net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. And with clear infringements on First Nations rights, such projects fly in the face of rhetoric and purported efforts towards reconciliation."

Those in favour of Teck Resources' proposed project say it will create thousands of jobs and bolster Alberta's struggling economy.

But opposition is strong even among Trudeau's own Liberal caucus, where many Liberal MPs have openly campaigned against approval and consider it antithetical to Trudeau's pledge to combat climate change.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2020.

The Canadian Press