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Sunday, January 16

‘We can’t keep going from one failure to another’: environmental watchdog criticizes liberals’ oil and gas sector program

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OTTAWA – Canada’s independent environmental commissioner is criticizing the liberal government for designing a $ 675 million pandemic support program for the oil and gas sector that does not “ensure credible and sustainable reductions” in greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

The so-called “Emission Reduction Fund” for onshore oil and gas producers struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic also does not guarantee the value of interest-free loans intended to support these companies because there is no tracking of total emission reductions. of the program, according to the audit of the initiative by the federal commissioner of the Environment, Jerry DeMarco.

“It was a hastily put together program. But that’s still no excuse. Fortunately, most of the funds are still available and they could improve the program before it is too late. “ he told reporters at a press conference on Thursday.

The audit is one of five reports DeMarco presented in Parliament on Thursday, as the liberal minority government promises to slash emissions over the next eight years through a strengthened set of policies that include regulations for clean electricity. , the promotion of zero emission vehicles (ZEV). ), and a legal greenhouse gas limit for the oil and gas sector, which is highly polluting.

The commissioner also recorded Canada’s last three decades without reducing national greenhouse gas emissions. National emissions increased by 21% between 1990 and 2019, the most recent year in which government data is it availabe. And since 2015, when the Liberals took power, Canada’s emissions increased by more than one percent, making it the “worst performer of all G7 nations” since the International Paris Agreement to Combat Change. climate, DeMarco noted.

He said Canada has missed opportunities to do better, citing examples of “inconsistency” in climate policy, including Ottawa’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline and finance a $ 12.7 billion pipeline expansion. He said the government must implement effective policies to meet the current goal of reducing emissions by at least 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

“We cannot continue to go from failure to failure,” DeMarco said, adding that “if past performance is the best indicator of future performance, history is not good.

“We need to have more than just plans. We need to have results, ”he said.

In a joint statement, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said that emissions projections when the Liberals took power projected even steeper increases, and that the commissioner’s reports highlight the “gigantic” task at hand.

They also expressed confidence that the liberal plan can meet Canada’s 2030 target, citing government projections from earlier this year that said policies announced as of April, which did not include new measures such as the ZEV mandate and the cap. of oil and gas emissions, would bring Canada 36% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The government’s own annual greenhouse gas emissions counts have found that increased emissions from the production and use of fossil fuels, across Canada’s oil and gas and transportation sectors, have hampered the progress of reducing pollution in other sectors since 2015. The oil and gas sector was responsible for 26 percent of Canada’s domestic emissions in 2019, while another 25 percent came from transportation emissions.

These developments have reinforced calls by environmentalists and climate activists for the government to address rising fossil fuel emissions, something the liberal government recognizes with promises to limit emissions from Canada’s oil and gas sector and create regulations to enforce Auto dealerships to sell more ZEVs up to 100 percent of new passenger vehicle sales will be zero-emission cars and trucks by 2035.

At the same time, the government says it will eliminate “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies by 2023 and eliminate public funding through Crown corporations for fossil fuel companies in Canada at an as-yet unspecified time.

However, during the pandemic, when the oil and gas sector was hit by low prices and lockdowns, the Liberals designed a support program to help companies in the industry. Launched in November 2020, the program offered up to $ 675 million in interest-free loans and gave beneficiary companies five years to pay them back. As Thursday’s DeMarco report explains, the program was intended to help companies reduce emissions while maintaining jobs and global competitiveness.

But DeMarco found that the program did not guarantee that the money would lead to lower emissions. Natural Resources, the department that designed the program, did not apply “greenhouse gas accounting principles.” The department also failed to ensure that the reductions were above what would have occurred even if the program did not exist, the audit says.

DeMarco said he was also “surprised” and “disappointed” that the department is not tracking the total amount of emissions that would be reduced due to the program. Additionally, 27 of 40 applications in the first tranche of the program indicated that the money would also increase oil and gas production and did not include emissions resulting from burning that additional fuel, according to the DeMarco report.

“It’s kind of like the basics of performance management – you set goals and track your progress toward that,” DeMarco said.

He also questioned whether the program would represent an “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidy that the government has pledged to eliminate, and concluded that such programs “run the risk of undermining Canada’s effort to combat climate change.”

“Fossil fuel subsidies go against the government’s stated goal, which is the transition to a low-carbon economy,” DeMarco said.

He said the department should take a “sober second look” at this program and said “not optimistic” they will follow his advice to make changes to fix it.



Reference-www.thestar.com

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