The Syncrude oil sands extraction facility is reflected in a tailings pond near the city of Fort McMurray, Alta., on June 1, 2014. Canadian environment groups are at the global climate change conference in Poland today calling out the federal government for allowing the oil and gas industry to systematically weaken Canada’s efforts to be a climate leader. Environmental Defence and Stand Earth are among the groups releasing a report which shows emissions from the oil and gas sector continue to rise and intensive lobbying from the industry means about 80 per cent of those emissions will be exempt from the carbon price. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Canada not slowing emissions from oil and gas: environmental groups

New report released at the United Nations climate talks in Poland

Canada is living in a fantasy if the government thinks it can meet its greenhouse-gas promises without reducing how much oil and gas the country produces, environment groups told the world at a global conference on climate change Monday.

Environmental Defence and Stand.earth used United Nations climate talks in Poland to release a new report accusing the oil-and-gas industry of undermining Canada’s climate plans.

“Oil and gas is the major obstacle to Canada actually being a climate leader and not just talking about being a climate leader,” said Dale Marshall, national program manager for Environmental Defence.

The report accuses the industry of successfully lobbying Canada to water down climate policies or exempt it from them, including delaying cuts to methane emissions from oil-production facilities and exempting up to 80 per cent of oilsands emissions from the federal carbon price due to kick in next year.

RELATED: ‘Bit frightening:’ Study finds most Canadian cities fail on climate change plans

Marshall said Canada’s policies to allow oilsands production to expand, and even buying the Trans Mountain pipeline to facilitate that expansion, are counterintuitive for a government that keeps claiming it wants to be at the forefront of global climate action.

Patrick McDonald, the director of climate for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, dismissed the report as a ”targeted effort by special interest groups looking at only our industry.”

McDonald said the Canadian oil-and-gas industry is the only one in the world subjected to a carbon tax and that it is innovating to reduce emissions.

“We’ve been very active and very environmentally responsible,” he said.

The report, however, says the emissions from each barrel of oil produced in Canada have grown 20 per cent between 1990 and 2016.

Catherine Abreu, the executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, said at a news conference at the meeting in Poland Monday that even if the industry can use technology to reduce emissions per unit of oil, gas or coal produced, that’s just a temporary fix in a world where the long-term plan has to be to stop using fossil fuels entirely.

“There are a lot of countries who, like Canada, seem to be under the impression that their fossil fuels are somehow different from everyone else’s fossil fuels,” she said. “As if their coal, oil or natural gas is magically non-emitting and actually good for the climate, while everyone else’s fossil fuels are the problem.”

The Paris agreement, the operative pact meant to head off the worst of climate change, committed the nations of the world to cutting emissions and the amount of carbon pollution trapped in the atmosphere enough to keep the average global temperature from rising no more than 2 C compared to pre-industrial times. They’re supposed to try to keep the temperature increase as close to 1.5 C as possible.

RELATED: Sounding the climate change alarm bell

The difference between the two is significant, with millions more people displaced at 2 C due to rising sea levels, extreme temperatures, and severe storms, as well as serious impacts on the world’s food supply and greater spread of disease, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Right now the world’s policies have it on track to exceed 3 C in warming by the end of the century.

Canada is currently planning to trim its emissions by about 200 million tonnes a year — the equivalent to what is produced by about 44 million passenger cars — but a recent UN report from dozens of respected climate scientists said that if the 1.5 C target has any hope of being met, Canada’s share of the necessary emissions reductions would be more like 400 million tonnes.

The oil-and-gas sector is one of the few areas where emissions are still increasing in Canada. Tzeporah Berman, international programs director at Stand.earth, said if oil-sector emissions keep growing, Canada will have to “squeeze” every other province and industry to get them to cut even more. Since most of the existing plan addresses the easiest and cheapest reductions we can get, cutting those other sectors further would require more costly and difficult regulations and policies, she said.

The Alberta government is looking at capping oilsands emissions at 100 million tonnes a year as part of its climate plan, with a view to expanding production as technology advances to reduce the emissions from each barrel of oil produced. But no such policy has yet been implemented.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New Alberta forward joins Vancouver Giants’ ranks

new left-handed 18-year-old is a familiar face to Giants head coach Michael Dyck

Langley Advance Times Arts Calendar: Feb. 21, 2020 edition

The arts calendar is published Fridays and the community calendar is in the Wednesday print edition

LETTER: Baffled by warning signs in Langley

Reader sees electronic signage as a waste of money and ‘not very useful’

Mugging with airsoft gun results in Langley school lockdown

Police found the weapon and a stolen phone later

Get your say on Langley Township’s budget

Surveys are available online now

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

‘A bag full of garbage every 15 metres’: Surrey industrial area filled with trash

Local workers looking to recruit business, raise funds to help dispose of litter

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Brand new Tesla crashes into Surrey store front, mounts gas line

Driver was heading to the Autoplan store, straight off the lot

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay B.C. man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

‘A horror show:’ Ex-employee shares experience at problematic Chilliwack seniors’ home

Workers are paid below industry standard at all Retirement Concepts facilities

Forest industry protests northern B.C. caribou protection deal

B.C. Mining Association supports federal-Indigenous plan

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Most Read