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Canada’s boreal forest is one of the largest remaining intact forest ecosystems in the world. The area where oilsands development takes place is home to nearly 90 species at risk, which are expected to decline as critical habitat is increasingly disturbed. The oilsands sector has an opportunity to reverse this trend.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper cited Alberta's version of carbon pricing as a model that could be applied at a national scale. Our analysis has found that an Alberta-style model could work at the national level — but it wouldn’t be ideal.
The wrap-up of UN climate talks in Lima, Peru, comes at a significant time for Alberta. Canada is not on track to hit its 2020 climate target, and the growth in Alberta’s carbon pollution is a significant barrier. But Alberta’s new climate strategy is expected by the end of the year, and the province has several big opportunities to turn things around.
As the world’s governments meet in Lima this week to discuss what to do about climate change, many are already looking ahead to the next round of climate talks in Paris. Those same governments have agreed to strike a new deal to shape the global response to climate change in a year’s time. And there’s good reason to be optimistic that an agreement could be reached in 2015.
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.
There should be no confusion about where Canada stands with respect to its efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and meet its international climate targets.
The Government of Alberta reported this month that air quality in areas near oilsands development in Northern Alberta was recorded as exceeding warning levels in 2012. While investments in air quality monitoring are beginning to pay off, this data will place a new Premier in a difficult position.
How to design stakeholder engagement to build trust Lessons from case studies on carbon capture and storage
We recently explored lessons learned from consultation processes for carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. What we learned can be applied to any kind of energy development and is especially useful for developers of sources of oil and gas that use new or unknown technologies and approaches.
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.
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.
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?
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.
British Columbians want an energy shift Strong majority want B.C. to transition away from using and exporting fossil fuels
New opinion research commissioned by the Pembina Institute, the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, and Clean Energy Canada shows that the majority of British Columbians not only want to move away from using and exporting fossil fuels, they also see economic benefits in doing so.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Around the world, governments are seeking innovative ways to balance long-term prosperity with evidence-based environmental management. When Alberta released its final wetlands policy for the oilsands region last September, it qualified its approach by saying its goal was to “minimize the loss and degradation of wetlands, while allowing for continued growth and economic development in the province.”
Over the last few months, debates about pipelines have become a staple of the news in Canada. In 2014, we can expect to hear a lot more about Energy East, a major west-to-east pipeline that would carry over one million barrels of crude per day. We need a venue for a meaningful discussion about the impacts — both positive and negative — of growing oilsands production.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s an unproductive indicator of how polarized the national conversation around energy and the environment has become when a pragmatic, research-focused group like Pembina can be painted as “anti-oil” or “working for the Americans.”
Even when rules exist for managing the environmental impacts of oilsands development, there is no guarantee they will be enforced.
In its rush to build new projects and ramp up production, the oilsands industry is driving an unfamiliar road with its foot jammed on the gas pedal — regardless of what turns or hazards may lie ahead.
Earning social licence the traditional way Why public engagement in the oilsands regulatory process matters
Jennifer Grant, oilsands director, weighs in on the Government of Alberta’s decision to bar Pembina from participating in the regulatory process for a proposed in situ oilsands project.
No one can deny that oilsands development has brought significant economic benefit. But increased dependence on a volatile natural resource sector carries some risks to Canada as well.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
As Stephen Harper’s natural resources minister, Joe Oliver already spends a lot of time going to bat for Canada’s oil and gas industry.
But at a meeting of Canadian energy ministers in Yellowknife last month, Minister Oliver took his support to another level. There, he made an eloquent pitch that developing our resources is a new kind of nation-building and an opportunity we are obliged to seize.
We have reached a “pivotal moment” in our history, he said, one where “the easy assumptions of the past are giving way to new realities.” I think he’s entirely right about that — but not at all in the way he meant it.
One short decade ago, the oilsands were scarcely known of outside of Alberta. That seems impossible to imagine today.
If you’re looking for a case study about the environmental management of oilsands development, take a look at how water from the Athabasca River is used in oilsands extraction.
This case study tells the story of how our governments are failing to balance the needs of the river with the demands of a thirsty industry, though no single company or project is to blame.
It’s hard to believe five years have passed since 1600 hundred ducks died after landing on a Syncrude tailings pond. The incident made headlines around the world, and kicked off an era of heightened international scrutiny and concerns related to the environmental impacts of oilsands development. And for good reason — the tailings waste produced from oilsands mining contains a host of toxins and seeps as much as 11 million litres per day of wastewater into the surrounding environment. Tailings reclamation is a financially risky and uncertain prospect.
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