Warning that Ottawa’s efforts to force emissions reductions on the oil and gas sector could spark a national unity crisis, an industry-backed think tank is proposing a citizens’ forum mandated to consider how the burden of reducing fossil industry emissions can be shared by all the provinces.
On October 26, the Calgary-based Mount Royal University Institute for Environmental Sustainability (IES) published an open letter addressed to Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault and the federal Net-Zero Advisory Body, titled “National Unity Implications of Significantly Reducing Oil and Gas Industry GHG Emissions.”
The letter observes that while “emissions and associated reduction costs from transportation and other sectors are spread roughly evenly throughout the country,” oil industry emissions reductions will be required almost entirely in “the four fossil fuel exporting provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador, with the bulk of that effort coming from Alberta.”
The IES voices concern that the four provinces in which industry is concentrated will see the burden falling to them while other provinces are exempted—a perception that could lead to Canadian climate change policy being “blocked or diverted by regional federal-provincial conflict.”
“We may be heading toward another national unity crisis akin to something like the 1995 Quebec referendum,” the letter warns.
To avoid such a crisis, IES recommends a citizens’ forum made up of Canadians from all provinces, mandated to report by April 2022. It would be instructed to answer the question of how oil and gas industry emission reductions can be achieved in a way that is perceived as fair and equitable by all Canadians.
One approach that may appear more equitable to fossil fuel-exporting provinces, according to the letter, would be to broaden the concept of a just transition to include financial support to fossil fuel companies to invest in emission-reducing technology. Canada’s Energy Citizens, a front group connected with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, has been making a similar pitch to Natural Resources Canada’s just transition consultation…with no mention of the fossil industry work force in its recent sign-on.
The IES website indicates it receives core funding and financial support from a number of Canadian oil and gas companies.