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Building and running a comprehensive monitoring program for the oilsands that keeps pace with the rapid growth of the industry is very challenging — especially considering how huge the industry is already. Oilsands development currently produces 61 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution, consumes 185 billion litres of freshwater annually and has directly transformed more land area than the entire city of Calgary.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Aug. 8, 2013 Trust us? Canada's climate credibility challenge
Canada has a credibility problem. As U.S. President Barack Obama implements his new climate plan and considers the proposed Keystone XL pipeline's emissions, Ottawa hopes to convince him that we're suddenly serious about fighting climate change. Our record is plain to see, and so far it plainly shows the opposite.
July 8, 2013 Three reasons to take Obama’s climate plan seriously
President Obama recently outlined a detailed climate action plan in a speech at Georgetown University. P.J. gives three reasons to be optimistic about the new plan.
Earlier today, the Government of Alberta launched a new “streamlined” regulator for energy projects in the province. While proponents say the move is an “exciting change” that will usher in “a new era” for energy regulation in Alberta, critics have compared the new single regulator to Frankenstein’s monster, arguing that the government is “building a new creature from old bones.”
Draft regulations tabled by the federal government would keep in situ oilsands development off the list of projects that require federal environmental assessment. By doing so, Ottawa is officially writing itself out of the process that would enable it to responsibly reduce the impacts of oilsands expansion before they occur.
May 14, 2013 Scientists offer much-needed reality check on climate implications of Ottawa’s resource agenda
As other countries face up to the climate challenge and begin curbing their demand for fossil fuels, will Canada be left waiting on the shore for tankers that will never come?
It seems that barely a week goes by without a federal cabinet minister saying we’re “halfway” to meeting our 2020 greenhouse gas target. So here’s the explanation of why the government says we’re halfway, what the line really means, and what Jon Bon Jovi has to do with Canada’s emission projections.
April 18, 2013 Tales from the National Inventory: a look at Canada’s latest greenhouse gas emissions report
Each spring, as the tulips are starting to bloom in Ottawa, Environment Canada releases its annual compendium of greenhouse gas emissions data. Here are three stories that emerged from our first look at the report.
April 12, 2013 What Minister Oliver didn’t read
Canada’s Natural Resources minister, Joe Oliver, recently shared his views on climate change and energy with La Presse. The Minister is quoted that he did not read the climate change section of the IEA report or their warning about locking into a path to dangerous climate change. To hopefully inform his next briefing, I’ve summarized the two scenarios below.
March 28, 2013 Farewell to National Round Table on Environment and Economy
Last year’s federal budget gave the order to shut the NRTEE down on March 31, 2013, but you can find an unofficial archive of their work online, including a list of their publications dating back to the early 1990s.
With consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal heading into the home stretch, a parade of Canadian politicians have been making the trek to the U.S. to try to convince the Obama Administration of the pipeline’s merits.
The good news is that the recent visitors — from Premiers Redford and Wall to federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver — now acknowledge that Canada’s environmental record is crucial to the upcoming U.S. decision.
The bad news is that there are some gaping holes in that record.
March 7, 2013 While Ottawa claims environmental leadership, legal group calls for investigation into oilsands pollution
On the same day that Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver assured the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that “Canada is a global environmental leader … and yes, that includes the oilsands,” the reputable and independent legal group Ecojustice released a report calling for a full federal investigation to determine if oilsands operators are in violation of the Fisheries Act.
March 5, 2013 Draft U.S. environmental assessment understates significance of Keystone XL for oilsands expansion and climate emissions
Late last Friday, the U.S. State Department released its draft assessment of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impacts, marking a significant milestone toward the impending White House decision on the project’s fate.
Feb. 22, 2013 Who’s really winning the race to end coal? A comparison of Canada and U.S. federal regulations
Sadly, Canada isn’t the shining example of coal-curbing excellence that Harper’s ministers are claiming. When it comes to regulating greenhouse gases from coal power, we’re doing about the same as our neighbours to the South — and may well be eclipsed before too long. As for “getting out of the dirty coal electricity generation business,” Canada won’t be fulfilling that commitment until 2062.
Feb. 19, 2013 Top clean energy opportunities for Canada in 2013
I asked four of Pembina’s directors what clean energy opportunities 2013 might have in store. Here’s what they had to say.
As parting shots go, Scott Vaughan’s was a powerful one.
With the release of his final report as Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development last week, Vaughan made the case that the development of our natural resources is running dangerously ahead of Canada’s laws and policies to protect the environment.
Jan. 17, 2013 Climate concerns are key in Keystone XL pipeline debate
To help inform the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, the Pembina Institute has produced a backgrounder about the climate impacts associated with the proposed pipeline. The backgrounder features new analysis showing that producing enough bitumen to fill the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and inhibit Canada’s ability to meet its climate targets.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” Though originally written as a social criticism of the period leading up to the French Revolution, Charles Dickens’ words seem an equally appropriate characterization of the past year for energy and environment issues in Canada.
Dec. 6, 2012 Crunch time at the Doha climate negotiations
The international climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar are heading into the home stretch, and the stakes are high.
’Tis the season for evaluating Canada’s progress on climate change, and now that we’re in the second week of global climate talks in Doha, Qatar, the oilsands are once again drawing fire as Canada’s main climate culprit.
Some may argue this label is unfair, but there’s one big reason that oilsands development deserves to be at the centre of any serious effort to meet Canada’s climate commitments: the projected growth in oilsands emissions over the rest of this decade will basically cancel out the emissions reductions that all other sectors in Canada expect to achieve.
To succeed, carbon pricing needs complementary policies to back it up and address important market barriers. Energy efficiency regulations, especially in buildings and vehicles, are among those essential complementary policies.
Today marks a landmark shift in opposition to continued expansion of oilsands development, with the start of a hearing into the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s (ACFN) constitutional challenge against Shell Canada’s application to expand the Jackpine Mine oilsands project. The first of its kind in Alberta, the constitutional challenge is based in part on concerns that Shell’s project will impact the ACFN’s ability to exercise treaty rights such as hunting and fishing in a meaningful way into the future.
Late on the Friday before the Thanksgiving long weekend, after many workers in the Eastern time zone had already called it a day, the federal government finally released its long overdue recovery strategy for the woodland caribou, the boreal population that ranges from Yukon to Newfoundland. Herds living in northern Alberta are currently listed as ‘threatened’ populations under the Species at Risk Act.
On Wednesday, the federal government announced its finalized regulations to limit climate-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants. As we had anticipated months ago, the final regulations don’t go nearly far enough to help Canada keep its climate change and clean energy commitments or safeguard ourselves, and our children, from coal pollution.
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