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Rising Fossil Emissions, Continuing Subsidies Undercut Canada’s Climate Performance

Canada’s lavish support for the oil and gas industry is the “elephant in the room” that prevents it from being a true climate leader, Environmental Defence National Program Manager Dale Marshall said this week in Katowice, during the release of a report on Canadian fossil subsidies produced by Environmental Defence and Stand.earth.

“The science is telling us we have to pretty drastically reduce production of oil and natural gas,” but “Canadian governments have really bent over backwards to try to help the industry with all these subsidies,” Marshall said.

The report shows that “emissions from the oil and gas sector continue to rise, and intensive lobbying from the industry means about 80% of those emissions will be exempt from the federal carbon price,” Global News reports. “If oil and gas production continues to increase at current rates, it will be nearly impossible for Canada to meet its Paris Agreement targets.”

In an interview with Global, Marshall pointed to relentless efforts by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to kill the new federal impact assessment act, Bill C-69. “The oil and gas industry, it’s fair to say, is one of the only things standing in the way of Canada showing leadership on climate change,” he said.

“While the federal and provincial governments continue to support the industry in the form of huge subsidies [including four new ones introduced on the eve of COP 24—Ed.], most recently including a C$4.5-billion pipeline purchase, the industry continues to claim it doesn’t get any federal support—something he says is incredibly frustrating,” Global adds, citing Marshall.

In a prepared statement, Environment and Climate Change Canada spokesperson Sabrina Kim told Global the Trudeau government is taking a “Team Canada approach” on climate, “supporting ambitious action by provinces, cities and towns, businesses, Indigenous peoples, and individuals. Our actions include phasing out coal; investing in public transit, energy efficiency and renewable energy; and ensuring pollution is no longer free.”

Marshall agreed that good things are happening at the federal level—with one big, decisive gap. “In every other respect, there are really good initiatives happening in Canada, and yes, the oil and gas sector continues to get a free pass and that’s unfair,” he said. “It’s unfair to other sectors, and it’s unfair to other Canadians who are facing climate policies and are seeing the oil and gas industry be let off the hook.

While CAPP climate director Patrick McDonald maintained the fossil industry has been “very active and very environmentally responsible” in trying to decarbonize its production operations, the report shows those emissions growing 20% per barrel between 1990 and 2016. In any case, said Climate Action Network-Canada Executive Director Catherine Abreu, cutting production emissions is “just a temporary fix in a world where the long-term plan has to be to stop using fossil fuels entirely,” Canada Newswatch reports.

“There are a lot of countries that, like Canada, seem to be under the impression that their fossil fuels are somehow different from everyone else’s fossil fuels,” she said. “As if their coal, oil, or natural gas is magically non-emitting and actually good for the climate, while everyone else’s fossil fuels are the problem.”