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Alberta Advisory Group Agrees on Roadmap for Limiting Tar Sands/Oil Sands Emissions

Alberta’s Oil Sands Advisory Group (OSAG) has published a roadmap for tar sands/oil sands operators to divide up the remaining space in the province’s legislated emissions cap of 100 megatonnes per year, then begin ratcheting back the gap through mid-century to help Canada achieve its broader climate targets.

“One set of recommendations targets the period before the [carbon] budget begins to get scarce,” explains pro-fossil Financial Post columnist Claudia Cattaneo. “It includes encouraging new technologies, being more transparent about emissions management plans, changing regulations.”

But the industry is still expected to hit the emissions cap in the next decade, if not sooner. When that carbon budget starts to run out, “that’s when measures would get heavy-handed,” Cattaneo writes. “Construction of new projects would be stopped and existing projects with higher intensity would be constrained.”

When Alberta tabled legislation last year to enforce the 100-Mt cap, the Globe and Mail noted that it would still allow the province’s tar sands/oil sands emissions to increase 50% through 2030, to account for one-fifth of the country’s carbon budget. But Cattaneo still sees the OSAG report as an imposition on industry.

“It’s hard to see how the punishing carbon diet proposed will motivate growth in an industry already beset by so many challenges that many operators are cashing out and flocking to competing jurisdictions,” she writes. “If the investment flight continues, it’s a good indication it’s unrealistic to expect one sector of Canada’s economy to bear such a big burden for the right to earn passage for its product.

“Success is to never have to worry about reaching the limit,” countered OSAG Co-Chair Dave Collyer, a former president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, who led the group along with veteran climate hawk Tzeporah Berman and Melody Lepine, a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation. The industry is staking its future on the hope that it can simultaneously increase production and reduce production emissions, an approach that is seen as favouring the largest operators in the tar sands/oil sands over smaller companies.

“In the world that we are in,” Collyer told reporters, “it’s going to be more and more important that we are environmentally competitive, and the best way to not leave oil in the ground is to always be improving our performance and innovating.”

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said she was “very, very pleased that a diverse group of people, diverse voices on the oilsands advisory group, were able to provide us consensus advice around a very difficult topic” via the OSAG report. “Our approach is one of partnership,” she added, “of not shouting anyone out of the room who had concerns about climate policies. Our approach is working.”

Cattaneo noted, however, that Berman and Stand.earth National Director Karen Mahon are stepping down from the advisory group before it enters its next phase of work.

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2 Comments To "Alberta Advisory Group Agrees on Roadmap for Limiting Tar Sands/Oil Sands Emissions"

#1 Comment By Frank White On June 19, 2017 @ 6:12 PM

In April of this year, in a 6:35-minute video, UK climate scientist Kevin Anderson clearly explained why wealthy countries like Canada must be carbon free by 2035 or many people will die. With the aid of 6 charts, Anderson clarified the relationship between carbon budgets and emission pathways at a global level, arriving at the shocking conclusion that our chances of avoiding a climate crisis are slim to none.
Here is a crucial excerpt from his presentation:
“… already it’s going to be very difficult for us to reduce our emissions in line with 2°C. But if we don’t do something now, it becomes much more difficult. And very soon we will completely lose any opportunity for 2°C…. That’s a huge request. But, again, I think it’s just about viable. This gives us only then an outside chance of 2°C. So, this is an enormous challenge beyond anything that is currently being countenanced by any country…. No county is doing what’s required at the moment – anywhere near for 2°C. The rhetoric is very loud. We hear this all the time, but the action is very weak.” (Watch the video and read my transcript by following this shortlink — http://wp.me/pO0No-3Vj )
It comes as no surprise (to me) to see that the Financial Post article lacks Anderson’s clarity and explanatory power.

#2 Comment By Chris O’Brien On June 20, 2017 @ 4:05 PM

It’s my understanding that Alberta’s 100-Mt emissions cap bears no relationship whatsoever to the global carbon budget that has been around for a few years now but thus far seems to have been totally ignored by the fossil fuel industry and governments all around the world. I think I can safely say, therefore, that the 100-Mt cap bears no relationship whatsoever to reality. It’s the same old thing, really — governments at all levels wanting to appear to be doing something about climate change, but in reality ensuring that whatever they do won’t stand in the way of the status quo and all that money.

As you say, Frank, it’s no surprise to see that Claudia Cattaneo lacks Anderson’s clarity and explanatory power because she, like the industry she champions, is not the slightest bit interested in explaining to anyone that we must leave most of Alberta’s oil in the ground.