tar sands

Experts Slow Clap for Canada’s Late and 'Inadequate' Climate Target

Months after most countries revealed national climate targets in the lead up to the December 2015 UN climate summit, Canada has finally announced its contribution to global emissions reductions — and its commitment is getting a failing grade from the climate community.

The NewClimate Institute rated Canada's target as “inadequate.”

In rating Canada ‘inadequate,’ our lowest rating, we note that other governments will have to take a lot more action to make up for the hole left by Canada’s lack of ambition — if warming is to be held to 2˚C,” said Niklas Höhne of the institute.

Canada is promising to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

According to Climate Action International, Canada is unlikely to meet that target, even though it is much weaker than commitments made by other industrial nations.

Shooting the Messenger: Tracing Canada’s Anti-Enviro Movement

Vivian Krause

When former environment minister Jim Prentice held his introductory lunch with U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson in November 2009, Prentice described to Jacobson how he had been shocked during a visit to Norway to find heated opposition to the Alberta oilsands during a public debate over state-owned StatOil ASA’s investment there.

This information was contained in a cable from Jacobson, which was obtained by WikiLeaks and posted by a Norwegian paper.

Prentice was clearly feeling the heat from a global campaign by environmental organizations to frame oilsands oil as “dirty” because of its energy-intensive extraction, which make for Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The public sentiment in Norway shocked him and has heightened his awareness of the negative consequences to Canada’s historically ‘green’ standing on the world stage,” the cable reported.

What the NDP's Alberta Win Means for Energy and Climate Change

In a stunning and historic move, Alberta elected a majority New Democrat government on Tuesday.

The Progressive Conservatives, which finished in third place, consistently mismanaged the environmental and climate change file.

Ralph Klein, controversial premier from 1992 to 2006, despised the Kyoto Protocol and infamously flipped the bird at an activist who was protesting against a new Al-Pac pulp mill. Subsequent premiers often talked about improving environmental regulations, but seldom acted on it.

It’s yet to be known how different things will be under the NDP, but their win certainly marks a significant shift in sentiment.

'Woe is Us': Oil Industry a Hot Mess After NDP Alberta Victory

While Jim Prentice and his Progressive Conservative cadre lick their wounds after last night’s landslide victory by the New Democratic Party and leader Rachel Notley, punditry about the oil industry’s place in the transformed province is in full force.

Even before the results were in, Canadians were being warned new leadership in Canada’s oilpatch will mean very scary things for the economy: fleeing investors, abandoned projects, market uncertainty.

Now that the victory bells have rung, the hand-wringing has leveled up.

The NDP win is “completely devastating,” for the energy industry, Rafi Tahmazian, fund manager for Canoe Financial LP, told Bloomberg.

The oil patch will pack up and leave,” Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Herald’s editorial page, tweeted. “Woe is us.”

Yet many other onlookers are saying fresh leadership in Alberta could bring long-overdue policy changes that not only benefit a broader cross-section of society, but industry itself, by remedying systemic imbalances that have granted an unhealthy amount of power to oil interests for far too long.

Alberta's Carbon Levy: A Primer

Carbon Pricing Alberta. Image oilsands emissions by Kris Krug

It may come as a surprise to some that Alberta pioneered carbon pricing — not just in Canada, but for all of North America.

That’s right: the province with the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada was the first place on the continent to put “polluter pays” legislation into place almost exactly eight years ago.

Even back in 2007, Alberta was getting pressure over its environmental management, particularly of the oilsands. This may have been in response to that,” Matt Horne, associate B.C. director at the Pembina Institute, told DeSmog Canada.

Has Stephen Harper Helped or Hindered The Oil Industry?

At an estimated 2,700 litres, the bunker fuel spill in English Bay was relatively small — yet the stakes of that spill couldn’t be much higher.

With Enbridge and Kinder Morgan both hoping to build oil pipelines to B.C., which would significantly increase oil tanker traffic in the province’s inside coastal waters, a dramatically mishandled marine oil spill raises all sorts of questions — questions the federal government does not appear well-positioned to answer, despite its aggressive push for West Coast oil exports.

Obviously, from the oil industry’s perspective, you couldn’t have picked a worse place to have an oil spill,” Jim Stanford, economist at Unifor and founder of the Progressive Economics Forum, told DeSmog Canada.

While the federal government insisted its response was “world-class,” a former commander of the shuttered Kits Coast Guard station blamed the six-hour delay in even deploying a boom to contain the oil on the closure of that station in 2013 — a move that is reported to have saved the federal government at estimated $700,000 a year.

The English Bay spill, beyond being a systemic failure, has been a total PR disaster.

Most Canadians Support Carbon Pricing, See Climate as Election Issue: New Poll

A new poll released today by Angus Reid finds the majority of Canadians support carbon pricing programs and more than half the population would like to see a national climate policy instituted at the federal level.

Although Canadians say they’re ready for climate action, there’s a lot less certainty surrounding climate leadership at the federal level, according to poll results.

There also appears to be some question about the actual impact of a carbon price but, despite the uncertainty, 75 per cent of Canadians support the idea of a national cap and trade program, and 56 per cent support the idea of a national carbon tax.

Currently Canada has a smattering of province-led carbon price initiatives — B.C.’s celebrated carbon tax being perhaps the most notable — although no national program to reduce emissions exists.

The Faulty Logic Behind the Argument That Canada's Emissions Are a ‘Drop in the Bucket'

At the premiers' climate summit this week, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall brought up a statistic that has received a fair amount of attention lately: Canada’s emissions account for fewer than two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

He's not wrong, but used as an argument against doing our part to combat climate change, his point does contain some flawed logic.

“Showing leadership matters, signals matter, examples matter, but the numbers are the numbers,” Wall said.

Essentially, Wall appears to be suggesting that because no single action by itself will solve the problem, we shouldn’t take that single action.

Applying this logic to other situations reveals just how faulty it is.

How Useful is the Norway Vs. Alberta Comparison?

Think of Norway and your mind likely conjures up a Narnia-like folklore: vikings, salmon, fjords, Svalbard reindeer.

But there’s another element — albeit slightly less fabled — that’s been added to the list recently: the Government Pension Fund Global. It’s also known as the “most successful sovereign wealth fund in the world,” according to a February 2015 report from the MacDonald-Laurier Institute.

It might not be popular enough to inspire a cable television show, but it’s prominent nonetheless.

There’s almost this myth about Norway,” acknowledges Andrew Leach, energy policy professor at University of Alberta, referring to Norway’s sovereign wealth fund.

Why Don’t We Have GHG Policy for the Oilsands? Blame Stephen Harper.

This article originally appeared on the Institute for Research on Public Policy website. It is republished here with permission.

There is one person to blame for the fact that Canada, to date, does not have greenhouse gas policy for the oilsands: Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Since 2007, when what was then known as Canada’s New Government introduced the Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions, the conservative government has had a fairly consistent approach to greenhouse gas emissions policy  they’ve relied on regulations, in some cases combined with carbon pricing, as part of a sector-by-sector regulatory approach. Or rather, they’ve relied on some regulations, with the ever-present promise of more regulations to come.


Eight years after this initial plan, we seem no closer today to seeing federal policy cover the growing emissions of the oilsands, the natural gas and refining industries, or the large and growing source of greenhouse gases known as “emissions-intensive and trade-exposed sectors.”

As the prime minister’s former Director of Communications Andrew MacDougall wrote in a column about the Mike Duffy trial, “if something is essential to the government’s agenda and losing isn’t an option, the entire team puts its shoulder to the wheel until victory is achieved. If a policy isn’t critical, it can be abandoned if the going gets too tough.” Had greenhouse gas policy for the oilsands and other major emitters been seen as critical to the government’s agenda, they’d be implemented today.

As it happens, they’re not.

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