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July 10, 2014 Auditor General’s scathing review ups pressure to improve Alberta’s weak climate policy
This week, the Alberta Auditor General released the scathing results of his review of the province’s climate change strategy. Despite recommendations from two previous audits, the report found the government still lacks a definitive plan to meet its climate targets and to report progress.
July 10, 2014 Making sense of fossil fuel subsidies
In 2009, Canada committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies along with the other member states of the G20. But five years later, Canadian taxpayers continue to subsidize a sector that is both profitable and well established. As our latest report explains, the financial support Canada gives the oil sector is unnecessary given the favourable economic reality that sector currently faces.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) has come as close as it likely ever will to admitting that the design of the Primrose Cyclic Steam Stimulation project has failed, and that this failure led to the four bitumen and steam emulsion blowouts that were discovered several kilometres apart just over one year ago.
July 7, 2014 Future-proofing the oil and gas sector
Energy companies are doubling down on oil, even as the likelihood of government action on climate change has never been higher. If local leaders like Cenovus are getting out of the renewables game, what does that mean for the oil and gas sector’s ability to proactively adapt to a carbon-constrained world?
July 4, 2014 B.C. Climate Action Plan 2.0?
In case you weren’t poring over government news releases on the Monday before Canada Day, you might have missed B.C.’s 2014 Climate Progress Report. While it has some controversial elements, it’s predominantly positive news that merits attention.
June 6, 2014 The costs of losing social licence
The degree to which Canadians and others will grant social licence to resource development proposals and proponents will largely hinge on whether — and how — industry and governments choose to implement these solutions to environmental performance and carbon emissions.
June 5, 2014 Climate change may be closer than you think
With climate change, there will be surprises — such as the news that the West Antarctic ice sheet is declining, and more quickly than expected.
The question is: when will the next surprise happen, and will we be prepared?
The Obama administration unveiled its significant plans to tackle carbon pollution from coal-fired electricity generation this week. Those plans include a commitment to reduce electricity emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and strong targets for near-term reductions by 2020.
I had the privilege to spend some time a few weeks ago at the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association’s annual conference, where one participant described geothermal as Canada’s ‘have not’ renewable energy industry. The 'have not' label is appropriate, since there are no existing commercial geothermal electricity projects in Canada, and limited to no geothermal-specific government support. Where Canadian geothermal companies have been successful is, surprisingly, everywhere but Canada.
April 17, 2014 Big shiny trends: Canada’s new emissions numbers
Every year, industrialized countries publish their national inventories of carbon pollution. Canada’s vast and detailed report, meticulously assembled by Environment Canada, gives us a thorough picture of where our greenhouse gas emissions come from, and how they have changed since 1990. We check in on three key stories in the 2014 inventory report.
April 17, 2014 Getting back in gear: oilsands climate performance
Oilsands emission performance doesn’t have to stay stuck in neutral. The roadmap to lower emissions intensity in oilsands is becoming apparent. But for that to become a reality, we need a policy framework that makes sure the cleanest technologies are also the smartest investment.
April 16, 2014 Oilsands talking point collides with reality
Proponents of oilsands expansion often repeat that missions per barrel have been reduced by 26 per cent between 1990 and 2011. The message implies that things are getting better all the time. Given the scale of oilsands expansion planned for the coming decades, it’s worth venturing past the talking point to better understand these emissions intensity improvements and whether or not they will continue.
The Pembina Institute, Arctic Energy Alliance, and Dehcho First Nations teamed up to organize a Dehcho Community Renewable Energy Forum last month in Fort Providence, NWT, to provide opportunities to hear from technical experts about biomass and solar energy options, as well as from communities about the challenges and the lessons they’ve learned when it comes to renewable energy projects.
Last month, scientists from Environment Canada released a study citing research that estimated the rate at which tailings water is likely seeping from one lake (and into groundwater systems hydraulically connected to the Athabasca River). The research cited determined that rate to be 6.5 million litres per day. We discuss the study research in the context of oilsands expansion and how governments should respond to this information.
March 4, 2014 A future of more weather and climate extremes
Any single weather event can be dismissed as usual weather variability. Although we must be prudent not to attribute every extreme — or indeed any particular one — to climate change, recent extreme events may indicate a new normal. The clustering and persistence of recent extremes around the world is a wake-up call to the power of nature and the threat of climate change.
Feb. 24, 2014 Calling all leaders in energy efficiency
This year, the Pembina Institute will again be joining Scotiabank’s EcoLiving Awards judging panel. Be sure to encourage energy efficiency innovators you know to submit an application by March 15!
Feb. 20, 2014 Piecing together B.C.’s LNG fiscal framework
Tuesday’s B.C. budget unveiled the first substantive information on the province’s promised liquefied natural gas tax. While the budget did provide some welcome clarity, many questions remain unanswered — most importantly how much money will be collected from a given amount of exported LNG. Here’s a look at some of the province’s bigger fiscal pieces that will apply to the LNG supply chain in B.C. if any projects do proceed.
Feb. 20, 2014 Closing the downtown–suburban divide
It’s high time that we stopped thinking of downtown and the suburbs as enemies. In reality, they have more in common than ever before.
Pembina has published a new report about the potential climate impacts associated with the proposed Energy East pipeline. Our research shows that producing the crude required to fill the pipeline would significantly increase Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and make it even more difficult to meet our climate targets.
Jan. 15, 2014 More trouble with 2030
The federal government quietly released a new emissions report over the holidays. It projects a significant and sustained rise in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions unless we dramatically improve our climate policies. This post explores some of the other significant stories found in that report, particularly at the provincial level.
Jan. 10, 2014 B.C.’s LNG quiz doesn’t make the grade
If you’re like me, you worry that British Columbia’s government is rushing its pursuit of liquefied natural gas development without taking the time to think through and manage the consequences, both social and environmental. The province’s new LNG awareness quiz doesn’t ease those concerns.
Jan. 10, 2014 The trouble with 2030
Think Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions look bad today? Unfortunately, 2030 doesn’t look any rosier. In October, Environment Canada published projections estimating that current policies will see Canada miss the Harper government’s 2020 emissions target by 122 million tonnes. Now a new report offers us a glimpse of where Canada’s emissions are headed after 2020, adding projections for the next decade.
Jan. 7, 2014 Ottawa’s oil and gas sitcom
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any slower, Ottawa has yet another rationale for delaying greenhouse gas regulations for oil and gas companies. Worryingly, this one comes straight from the top.
Ontario’s electricity system is often maligned, and more often misunderstood. Providing a multi-billion dollar essential service that employs thousands of people in competing industries is a tall order — doubly so when you’re trying to keep pollution levels and prices down. As we head into a new year, it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge some important gains the province has made so far.
Dec. 18, 2013 Fuelling our way out of traffic congestion
Last week, the premier’s advisory panel on transit investment proposed a strategy to raise funds for transit expansion while minimizing the burden on taxpayers. The panel’s strategy includes a gas tax, which became a lightning rod in the subsequent discussion. However, the cost of inaction far exceeds to costs of a gas tax, which would pay for a regional rapid transit network and alleviate congestion.
Dec. 12, 2013 New dollars, new transit
Today, the premier’s Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel proposed a transit funding strategy that represents a consensus on how to raise new dollars. It passed the tests set by thirteen panel members representing diverse interests — including labour, business, developers and drivers — and is a well-thought-out proposal that deserves serious consideration from the broader public.
Next week, an important piece of legislation will continue through its third reading in the Alberta legislature. Bill 31, the protecting Alberta’s environment act, would establish the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) to obtain relevant scientific data and information regarding the condition of the environment in Alberta.
While the bill is essential to establish an independent monitoring agency — a goal we support — the proposed legislation has some basic flaws. Even more concerning, the government has been surprisingly closed-minded in responding to amendments proposed in the legislature that would enhance the bill.
Earlier this year, Natural Resources Canada commissioned a study to evaluate aspects of the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive. Canada has been lobbying very aggressively against the FQD, since fuels derived from natural bitumen (oilsands) would be assigned a higher carbon intensity value than those derived from conventional crudes.
The report was released on Wednesday but, despite the government's rhetoric, it offers nothing to discredit the directive. Rather, its findings seem to generally reinforce the defensibility of the Commission’s proposed approach.
Nov. 8, 2013 Documents raise concern over industry influence on delayed oilsands emissions regulations
This week, the Pembina Institute reviewed a package of documents obtained under Alberta’s Freedom of Information legislation about future Alberta and federal greenhouse gas regulations.
The first paper released by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel unpacked some hard truths about transit. Those truths include how the cost of transit encompasses much more than just the cost of building it, and how building transit to an area doesn’t mean that development will come.
If the government is honestly asking taxpayers to contribute to the next wave of Big Move projects, it must be smart and responsible with everyone’s money. The panel needs to ensure that investments in transit provide maximum benefits and deliver tangible results, both in the short and long terms.
Oct. 31, 2013 Rapid innovation in the oilsands: a worthy challenge
“History repeating itself” isn’t typically a positive expression. It usually refers to a series of errors or oversights typically resulting from leaders failing to learn from past efforts. It is with this in mind that Alberta’s forthcoming innovation plans will want to avoid past mistakes and repeat what Alberta has done well.
Oct. 29, 2013 Pacific Coast Action Plan signals progress on climate
Yesterday, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington, along with B.C. Premier Christy Clark, announced their Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy. Speaking for the 53 million people they represent, the four leaders made substantive commitments around carbon pricing, low-carbon transportation and energy efficient buildings, and more.
Oct. 29, 2013 Trending Bad: What Environment Canada's latest climate report says about Canada's carbon pollution
Last week, Environment Canada released its annual Emissions Trends report, projecting the path of Canada’s climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions. This blog looks at what the report says and why it matters.
It’s not often we see international praise for climate change policy in Canada, but that’s exactly what the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) did in a recent report, highlighting British Columbia’s carbon tax as a leading example of carbon pricing.
Oct. 21, 2013 Unpacking the truths about transit investment
Today Premier Wynne’s Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel released its first issue paper entitled: The Hard Truths about Transit in the Toronto Region
I am honoured to be a member of the panel, which was established with a mandate to advise the Province whether the Metrolinx’s Investment Strategy recommendations are the right ones. The first four weeks we spent grappling with this central question: Despite consensus on the seriousness of the transportation and congestion problem in Toronto, why can’t we agree on how to solve it?
Oct. 11, 2013 Unfortunate approval of Fortune Creek gas processing plant highlights flaws in B.C.’s LNG plan
The B.C. government has approved the construction of a new gas processing plant north of Fort Nelson. The news release heralding its approval doesn’t mention liquefied natural gas (LNG) but — make no mistake — this plant is being proposed to feed the demand for additional natural gas from any liquefaction facilities in northwest B.C., if they are constructed.
In a drastic move to contain an on-going and unstoppable bitumen blowout in Cold Lake, Alberta, the province’s department of environment has ordered Canadian Natural Resource Ltd. to drain two thirds of a 53-hectare lake. According to CNRL, some of the removed water will be stored in the remaining one third of the lake, with the rest piped to a nearby pit and wetland.
Sept. 30, 2013 Joint climate action for Keystone fails to persuade
It’s been a few weeks since news broke that Stephen Harper had written to Barack Obama about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, offering “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” in exchange for his approval of the project.
So far there is little evidence that the Obama Administration is interested in accepting Harper’s offer. If Harper did fail to catch Obama’s interest with his letter, it’s worth asking why.
By the end of September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will finalize the first instalment of its Fifth Assessment Report. This will focus on the physical science basis for the threat of climate change. Some of the conclusions have already been leaked and have been the subject of divergent media stories. The purpose of this blog is to provide a guide to help understand the IPCC Report when it is released.
After eight years of deliberation, Alberta has essentially handed industry a free pass when it comes to compensating for the loss of wetlands in the oilsands region. Given the pressure the government is under to show its environmental scruples these days, you’d think it would have seized this opportunity. Instead, the policy gave the oilsands industry at least a two-year exemption from taking any responsibility for wetlands.
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