Canada is unlikely to be on the podium when a group of countries led by Denmark and Costa Rica unveils the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) during this year’s United Nations climate conference, COP 26, in Glasgow.
“I think it would be a great signal to the rest of the world for Canada to join an initiative like that,” University of British Columbia climate scientist Simon Donner, a member of the federal Net-Zero Advisory Body, told CBC. “I don’t think we’re probably ready to do it, though, right now.”
The plan for the new alliance first emerged in August, with the two lead countries looking for other jurisdictions prepared to stop issuing new permits for fossil exploration and set a deadline to phase out oil and gas production, Reuters reported at the time. “Restricting domestic oil and gas production in line with what is required to live up to the Paris Agreement goals will be the core focus for BOGA,” stated a draft set of rules for the group.
“A core task for the BOGA would be to establish a deadline for developing and developed countries to phase out existing oil and gas production that would align them with the Paris goals,” the news agency wrote, citing an internal document. “To become a full member of the alliance, countries must promise to end new licencing rounds for oil and gas production on their territories, as well as to phase out existing production.”
With the COP now just a week away, BOGA proponents say the initiative is still on track for a launch announcement.
“We think that to be a climate leader you also have to lead on the difficult questions, and ending oil and gas extraction is definitely one of the defining questions of climate action,” Danish climate ambassador Tomas Anker Christensen told CBC. He added that it’s hard to see how countries can meet a net-zero target by 2050 while expanding fossil production.
“It is a paradox,” he said. “It’s hard to envision how you do both.”
But a spokesperson for Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson declined to commit to the alliance.
“The majority of oil and gas companies are already committed to net-zero by 2050, and in order to get to our shared goal, emissions from the oil and gas sector need to go down,” press secretary Joanna Sivasankaran said in a statement. “We committed in our platform, and have a strong mandate, to ensure that pollution from the oil and gas sector doesn’t go up from current levels and instead goes down at the pace and scale needed to get to net-zero by 2050.”
Those targets lean heavily on the development of industrial carbon capture technologies that could hinge on the industry’s demand for more than C$50 billion in taxpayer subsidies through 2050. After Cenovus Energy CEO Alex Pourbaix floated that figure in August, The Energy Mix readers were quick to weigh in with their own ideas on how much decarbonization a $52.5-billion public investment could buy.
While Quebec recently pledged to ban oil and gas extraction, a spokesperson for Environment Minister Benoît Charette made no promises about joining BOGA. “The initiative is interesting but as of now no decision has been made,” press secretary Rosalie Tremblay-Cloutier told CBC in an email.
Destination Zero Executive Director Catherine Abreu said recent decarbonization moves by both Quebec and California would “potentially” make them eligible to join the alliance. She told CBC’s The House that Canada’s current position on oil and gas emissions puts it in an “awkward” position.
“We’ve seen our government is very reluctant to take that challenge on fossil fuels,” she said. But “one thing that COPs are good at is increasing pressure on countries. Sometimes it really leads to a lot of pressure being put on governments to start to do, frankly, the right thing.”