Carbon pricing is just one part of a complete climate plan, and it will be at least two years before the Canadian government decides whether to extend the federal floor price beyond C$50 per tonne after 2022, Environment and Climate Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told The Canadian Press last week.
“It’s part of the plan, but I would say to you carbon pricing is not the only tool in the toolbox. We’re going to use a whole range of them to achieve this in a way that is acceptable and works for Canada,” Wilkinson said. “Our view has been that the pricing of pollution is part of a robust climate plan, but it is not a climate plan in and of itself.”
Wilkinson said his first priority would be “figuring out how Canada is going to meet its target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions made four years ago as part of the Paris climate change agreement,” The Canadian Press writes, in a post republished by National Observer. That plan “will lean heavily on developing clean technology to reduce the emissions from oil and gas production and manufacturing industries.”
After that, the minister plans to “map a way to fulfill the Liberals’ election promise to exceed that goal. He intends to have a new target ready for the United Nations climate change conference in November 2020.”
While Wilkinson, a former cleantech executive, is keen to help the fossil industry reduce its production emissions [and not, we hope, to greenwash its much larger downstream emissions—Ed.], at least one senior fossil executive is tying that activity to new pipeline development. In a media briefing last week, departing Imperial Oil CEO Rich Kruger blamed the continuing, five-year oil price crash for Cenovus Energy’s failure to introduce a new, less carbon- and water-intensive production process with a new tar sands/oil sands project. But with prices still low by 2014 standards and the industry’s economic future increasingly uncertain, Kruger still managed to pivot to pipelines.
“The pipelines are full; there’s no more room,” he said. “It intuitively doesn’t make sense to develop new production capacity when existing production capacity is shut in.”
Kruger added: “Every new barrel in Alberta, whether it’s from Imperial or the rest of the industry, is an improved environmental performance over the historical barrels. That’s how you get better. And for the industry to continue to improve, we have to be able to grow, and to grow, we need expanded market access.”
It was a very different story from just a week ago, with the Bloomberg News reporting plans by Imperial and several other companies to move more oil out of Alberta via rail and existing pipelines, and Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason concluding the country probably has enough pipeline capacity in operation or under development.
Wilkinson’s interview with CP followed a report from Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission that called for a carbon price of $210 per tonne by 2030 as the most economically efficient way to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. “Wilkinson said he appreciated the Ecofiscal report, but noted it comes from a purely economic efficiency perspective, and the government has to take more things into consideration,” the news agency writes.
Wilkinson wouldn’t say what specific steps he would take to close the gap in Canada’s current 2030 target, or how far the country would commit to go beyond a 30% emission reduction from 2005 levels. In its list of expectations for Canada’s performance at this month’s United Nations climate conference in Madrid, Climate Action Network-Canada called on the country to double its 2030 target to 60% and make its fair-share contribution of US$4 billion per year to the UN’s Green Climate Fund.
“I am not going to get ahead of myself and say exactly how far I think we can get,” Wilkinson told CP. But he acknowledged that Canada can’t treat international carbon trading under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement as a substitute for domestic action.
“Countries all have to recognize that the bulk of the work that you do has to be done on reducing domestic emissions,” he said. “It can’t be you’re simply going to use some emissions trading system. It cannot be a get-out-of-jail-free card.”
On CBC, Parliamentary correspondent Aaron Wherry says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears to be betting his government on climate action, with the word “climate” showing up 11 times in last week’s Speech from the Throne. That’s 11 times more than it appeared in Stephen Harper’s last throne speech in 2013.
“If climate change is the defining political issue of the age, Justin Trudeau’s government will be judged by how it navigates the opportunities and risks it presents—opportunities and risks that were laid bare by the recent election and will now play out over the course of this Parliament,” Wherry writes.