Canadian climate hawks unveiled a stylish, new “emissions cap” and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith drew some serious attention over the weekend as watchdog groups began shining a harsh light on fossil industry influence at this year’s United Nations climate summit, COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
On Friday, Le Devoir reported the federal government invited “several representatives from the oil and gas industry, including executives from companies active in the exploitation of tar sands oil,” to join the country’s official delegation to the conference. The paper said a vice president from oilsands giant Suncor Energy was invited as a “guest” of the federal government, along with representatives of Cenovus Energy, Meg Energy, Imperial Oil, Enbridge Inc., Tourmaline Oil, and the Pathways Alliance, the carbon capture lobby group whose six members account for about 95% of Canadian oilsands production, nearly three million barrels per day.
A federal spokesperson did not answer emailed questions about how many fossil representatives the government invited, whether they have full access to the COP negotiating rooms, and whether they’re travelling at their own expense. But Environment and Climate Minister Steven Guilbeault told Le Devoir he was comfortable with the “diversity” of the Canadian delegation.
“The Canadian delegation should not be tainted by the presence of a few individuals,” he said. “In fact, the Canadian delegation is the most diverse, with clean technology having three times as many delegates as oil and gas.”
Environmental Defence Canada said the UN’s provisional list of participants showed at least 35 fossil representatives attached to the Canadian delegation.
“The fossil fuel industry knows their time is up,” Julia Levin, EDC’s associate director, national climate, said in a release. “So it is not surprising that fossil fuel executives are swarming COP28, in an effort to sabotage progress and peddle their dangerous distractions, like carbon capture and hydrogen. However, it is irresponsible for governments to include these climate villains in their official delegations.”
The Saturday edition of ECO, Climate Action Network-International’s daily COP newsletter, pointed to another high-profile fossil lobbyist who made the trek from Canada to Dubai.
“Swaddled by a 100-person convoy of oil crony delegates, the Premier of the Canadian province of Alberta Danielle Smith arrived at COP28,” the newsletter led off [pdf]. “While the world is here to achieve a fossil fuel phaseout, Smith is here to deny, delay, and distract on behalf of the oil and gas industry.”
The international climate community sees Canada “as an underperforming climate laggard, but few understand the root cause of its stagnation: a fierce oil and gas lobby that has captured obstructionist petro-provinces,” the article continued. “Smith is here to subvert the Canadian government’s efforts to meet its Paris commitment, both by fighting a much-needed and long-overdue cap on the oil and gas industry’s emissions, the sector responsible for an incredible 28% of Canada’s emissions (and growing), and by threatening to flout the country’s law on clean electricity.”
Smith “is also here to subvert the wishes of the majority of people in her province who want economic diversification away from oil and gas dependency—including Indigenous nations whose lands, waters, and health are threatened by toxic tailings spills.”
“Together we will prove the doubters and the naysayers wrong. Alberta will not be left behind by the global energy transition,” Smith told a conference last month. “I think we’ve got a very compelling story to tell about what the future of this energy transition looks like.”
(Still with the theme of being left behind, this would be the same Alberta premier whose government to slapped a seven-month moratorium on new solar and wind development, sidestepping the concerns of some rural municipalities and costing the province an estimated C$33 billion in economic activity and 24,000 jobs, at a moment when Alberta was leading the country in renewable energy deployment.)
Meanwhile, Climate Action Network-Canada Executive Director Caroline Brouillette and former federal environment minister Catherine McKenna were both spotted at the conference venue sporting what Brouillette described as “these snazzy and highly coveted ‘Emissions Caps’,” a reference to the cap on Canadian oil and gas emissions that Guilbeault is widely expected to announce before the COP concludes in about nine days.
Brouillette gave Guilbeault his own cap during an event at the Canadian pavilion Friday. “BUT there was a strict condition—he can only wear it if he announces the oil and gas emissions cap framework here at COP,” she wrote. “He said he would be shocked if it doesn’t come before the end of #COP28.”