Canada’s oil and gas emissions continue to rise

Planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions linked to Canada’s fossil fuel industry continue to grow according to new data, with the oil and gas industry responsible for more than a third of the country’s total emissions.

On Thursday, Environment and Climate Change Canada released its National Inventory Report — a detailed annual accounting of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, as required by the Paris Agreement. The report provides emissions data from 1990 to 2022, the most recent year available.

According to the report, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions remain below pre-pandemic levels and are, in fact, the lowest in 25 years, except for the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, when sharp reductions occurred. of emissions when economies came to a standstill. For the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, the results are encouraging and speak of a set of government policies that are coming into force.

“We knew emissions would recover in 2022 when our economy came back to life,” Guilbeault told reporters. “And we saw an increase in emissions between 2021 and 2022 in the transportation sector, the construction and housing sector and some parts of oil and gas, particularly the tar sands.

“But overall, this updated report shows emissions significantly lower at 44 million tonnes than our pre-pandemic levels. “That is equivalent to removing 13 million vehicles from our roads.”

In 2022, Canada’s emissions amounted to 708 megatonnes (Mt) of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. That represents a 1.3 percent increase from 2021 or a 5.9 percent drop from 2019.

Specifically, the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2022 were:

  • 217 Mt in oil and gas, one Mt more than the previous year.
  • 156 Mt in transportation, six Mt more than the previous year.
  • 89 Mt in buildings, four Mt more than the previous year.
  • 78 Mt in heavy industry, the same as the previous year.
  • 70 Mt in agriculture, one Mt more than the previous year.
  • 51 Mt in waste and other sectors, two Mt more than the previous year.
  • 47 Mt in the electricity sector, four Mt less than the previous year.

Any emissions reductions achieved were negated by increased emissions in the transport, construction, oil and gas, agriculture and waste sectors.

New data reveals that while Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions remain below pre-pandemic levels, they are increasing. But now that oil and gas are responsible for 31% of the country’s emissions, all eyes are on Ottawa’s long-awaited emissions cap policy.

Perhaps most importantly for those concerned about Canada’s rising fossil fuel emissions, since 2005, production of crude bitumen and synthetic crude oil from the tar sands has grown 240 per cent, representing an increase of 46 Mt during this period.

Catherine Abreu, founder of Destination Zero and member of Canada’s Net-Zero Advisory Body, said the continued rise in emissions from the oil and gas sector reflects the absence of a climate policy specifically designed to address those emissions.

“Climate policy works where it exists,” he said. Canadian National Observer. Abreu pointed to the output-based pricing system (the carbon price facing the industry) as an effective policy that is expected to drive significant reductions by 2030, when Canada has committed to reducing 40 per cent of its emissions relative to 2005 levels.

According to the Canadian Climate Institute, the industrial carbon price is the workhorse of Canada’s emissions reduction policies, which are projected to reduce between 23 and 39 per cent of the country’s total emissions by 2030. Comparatively, the consumer price of carbon, called the fuel charge, is expected to be responsible for eight to nine percent.

It is important to have “both sides of the carbon pricing coin,” Abreu said. But specifically, the oil and gas sector needs an emissions cap as soon as possible to complement the industrial carbon price.

If emissions from the oil and gas sector are allowed to continue to rise, it means that other sectors of the economy and other regions of the country have a greater effort ahead of them to meet the country’s emissions reduction targets, he said.

“We see that one part of the country now contributes more than a third of Canadian emissions, and that’s a challenge,” he said. “But as we have to continue to deepen the actions we are taking on climate change… it will be a growing question whether it is fair and makes sense for us to attribute this very rapid reduction carbon budget for Canada to one sector and one place.”

In December, the federal government unveiled its framework for oil and gas emissions limits as part of its consultation process to design the policy. The framework proposes an upper legal limit for oil and gas emissions of 131 to 137 million tonnes in 2030. Of that target, oil and gas companies will need to cut between 106 and 112 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. of its operations, representing a 35 percent decrease from 2019 levels.

At the time, Guilbeault said the draft regulations for the emissions cap could be expected in the first half of 2024, but that timeline is being delayed. Guilbeault said Thursday that the draft regulations would be available in the fall. The rules will not be phased in until at least 2026.

“This is a policy that has seen a lot of schedule delays,” said Pembina Institute oil and gas program director Janetta McKenzie. Canadian National Observer. “It is a complex policy. It takes time to design. “It takes time to implement, but I think ultimately this policy needs to move forward as quickly as possible if we want emissions from the oil and gas sector to really start to reduce significantly by 2030.”

McKenzie said the federal government is offering carrots in the form of investment tax credits for companies to decarbonize, but it’s time to use the emissions cap as well.

Oil and gas companies need certainty to make major investments, he said, and “we know they won’t do it without regulation because we haven’t seen those investments come to light yet.”

Guilbeault seems to agree.

“We’re putting our money where our mouth is and I’d like to see the industry do the same,” he said. “There are billions of dollars of federal money to help these companies invest in carbon capture and storage.”

Referring to the Pathways Alliance, made up of Canada’s six largest oil sands companies (Suncor, Imperial Oil, Canadian Natural Resources, MEG Energy, Cenovus and ConocoPhillips), which has proposed a massive $16.5 billion carbon capture project to the government dollars, Guilbeault said. They have been talking about it for two years and still have no signs of the companies’ investment plan.

“I think we’ve kept our promise,” he said. “There is a lot of money on the table for them. They need to put up some of their own money. [in] also.”

As previously reported by Canadian National ObserverThe oil and gas industry lobbied aggressively last year as the emissions cap framework was developed, racking up more than 1,000 meetings with government officials.

The revelations about rising oil and gas emissions come a day after the official opening of the $34 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. The pipeline increases capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. Because more capacity facilitates more production, climate advocates worry that the sector’s emissions will continue to rise.

Alberta oil production hit all-time highs in Februaryand Crown corporation ATB Financial attributes this to the anticipation of Trans Mountain opening for business.

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