With investors elsewhere turning up the heat on fossil companies to declare firm climate goals for the end of this decade, the Pathways Alliance is admitting it won’t likely comply with its 2030 emissions cap until 2035 at the earliest.
In London, UK last month, investor watchdog group Follow This said it had filed shareholder resolutions with six institutional investors representing US$1.3 trillion in assets, calling for tougher emission targets from the world’s four biggest fossil companies—ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, and Chevron. But in Calgary just a few days later, the alliance set up as a focal point for the oilsands industry’s approach to decarbonization declared that it won’t meet expectations for a 42% emissions cut by 2030 until at least 2035 without “slashing oil production,” CBC reports.
“It’s gonna take another five or 10 years to get there to those levels based on the current plan,” said Pathways Alliance President Kendall Dilling. “By the mid-2030s we could probably get to that level of ambition.”
Over the last year, the five-member alliance has taken severe criticism for failing to invest in emission reductions, instead building an industry decarbonization plan on costly and unproven carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. In October, the companies announced plans for a C$24.1-billion CCS megaproject, but said their final investment decision would depend on government subsidies, on top of the $7.1 billion in tax support they’d already received in the 2022 federal budget—and in spite of the record profits they took in last year, an estimated $152 billion, according to a late September analysis by the Calgary-based Pembina Institute.
The industry’s annual emissions currently stand at 70 million tonnes, and the alliance is proposing a 22-Mt reduction by 2030. But much of that offer depends on the “sprawling carbon capture and storage (CCS) hub planned for near Cold Lake, Alberta,” CBC writes, which in turn “hinges on a game plan from ongoing talks with governments and stakeholders.”
[Bonus point to the first reader who can point to a dictionary definition of “game plan” that really translates into taxpayer funding—Ed.]
“2023 is the year where we will collectively determine if 2030 is actually achievable,” Dilling told CBC. “We have probably the first half of 2023 to really land on the fiscal and regulatory framework that is needed for these projects to go forward so that we can keep them on that 2030 timeline. If we slide much beyond that, 2030 will be very challenging.”
The CBC coverage picks up on some of the criticism the industry has received for slow-walking its investments in carbon reductions.
“The investment climate under which any of these companies would make any of these big CCS investment decisions is still not completely favourable,” so “it’s not that surprising for something this big that it ends up on a delay,” said University of Alberta professor Andrew Leach. But “the urgency comes in a way from how patient our government is going to be in waiting for the oil and gas sector or the Pathways group to figure this out and get something that makes it clear that they can deliver on their promises.”