Oilsands | Pembina Institute

The oilsands in northern Alberta are the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

The oilsands underlie approximately 140,000 square kilometres of the boreal forest in northern Alberta. Increasing greenhouse gas emissions are a major concern, but other impacts — from drawing down water levels in the Athabasca River, to the creation of toxic tailings dumps, to hundreds of square kilometers of strip-mining and drilling in the boreal forest — are growing just as rapidly.

While oilsands production has expanded rapidly in the last decade, government policies and regulations have failed to keep up, creating serious challenges in managing the environmental, social and economic impacts.

Alberta can do better

Many of the environmental, social and economic impacts being felt across Alberta can be traced back to the decision to develop the oilsands as fast as possible rather than at a manageable pace. As a result, while oilsands projects have expanded rapidly, government policies and planning have fallen far behind, leaving a serious deficit in environmental management.

Responsible oilsands development

Our goal is to advance responsible oilsands development, which we define as:

  • capping the impacts of oilsands development within the limits of what science shows the ecosystem can support;
  • shrinking the environmental footprint of oilsands development for every barrel produced; and
  • ensuring a meaningful portion of the benefits of oilsands development are used to support Canada's transition to a clean energy future.

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