False claims highlight Alberta's inadequate GHG regulations

Provincial regulations have no material effect on growing emissions from oilsands

May 6, 2010
Media Release

Government of Alberta yesterday made false claims about greenhouse gas emissions
from the province's major industrial polluters. The claims were included in a
government news release and backgrounder (1) detailing results from provincial
greenhouse gas regulations for the year 2009.

"It is simply
unacceptable for the government to make claims of emission reductions that do
not correspond to reality," said Matthew Bramley, Director of the Pembina
Institute's Climate Change Program. "The government's exaggerations may be
its attempt to respond to criticism from at home and abroad. But instead of
overselling its fundamentally flawed regulations, the government needs to focus
on developing a serious plan for real reductions in the province's greenhouse
gas pollution."

According to Environment
Canada's latest data, Alberta's greenhouse gas pollution rose by 43 per cent
between 1990 and 2008, compared to 24 per cent for Canada as a whole. This
means that Alberta, which contributed 18 per cent of Canada's GDP growth over
this period, accounted for no less than 52 per cent of Canada's emission

"The reality is that
the province's greenhouse gas regulations have no material effect on oilsands
producers — yet the oilsands sector is the number one reason why Alberta's
emissions continue to increase," Bramley added.

The government's
announcement yesterday included three key incorrect claims:

Government claim:
"The 2009 results saw Industrial emissions reduced by seven million tonnes
from business-as-usual."

Reality: Out
of these seven million tonnes, 1.8 million "emission performance
credits" are not reductions because emitters can use them to pollute more
in future years. In addition, most of the 3.8 million "carbon
offsets" do not likely correspond to reductions that go beyond
business-as-usual (2). This means that the "seven million tonnes"
claim is likely at least a three-fold exaggeration.

Government claim:
"Alberta is the only North American jurisdiction with regulations that
require mandatory greenhouse gas reductions from all large industrial

Companies need not reduce their emissions at all to comply with Alberta's
regulations. If a company's emissions are above its target, it can comply
simply by paying $15 for each tonne of excess emissions. For oilsands
producers, this works out to be at most about 18 cents per barrel of oil - too
little to have any material effect on firms' production decisions.

Government claim:
"Since the program started on July 1, 2007, more than 17 million tonnes of
emissions that would have otherwise gone to the atmosphere were not released — the equivalent of 3.4 million cars off the road."

Reality: To
begin with, this is likely at least a three-fold exaggeration for the reasons
explained above. But the exaggeration is worse in this case because it is
mathematically incorrect to use cumulative emission reductions when calculating
the equivalent number of cars removed.

The government's news
release acknowledged that Alberta's regulations do not require "overall
reductions." In other words, greenhouse gas pollution continues to
increase, because the regulations set targets for emissions
"intensity" (emissions per unit of production), not absolute
emissions. According to Environment Minister Renner, these emission increases
are justified by Alberta's increasing oil and gas output. But economic analysis
published last year by the Pembina Institute (3) shows that with a strong price
or cap on emissions, Alberta could continue expanding oilsands production and
its economy over the next decade while reducing the absolute level of
greenhouse gas pollution.

The government's release
also shows that the $15/tonne payments into the province's Climate Change and
Emissions Management Fund (CCEMF) have accounted for half of the compliance
with the regulations to date. Unfortunately, there is no clarity on the amount
of emission reductions that might be achieved using this money or when those
reductions might occur. In addition, the majority of the CCEMF's board members
(4) are closely associated with the industry sectors making payments into the
fund. This raises concerns that the CCEMF may not give full consideration to
investments in emission reductions outside those sectors.

30 -

The Pembina Institute is
a non-partisan sustainable energy think tank.

For more information

Matthew Bramley
Climate Change

Phone: 613-216-1976, ext. 26
Cell: 819-210-6115

Email: matthewb@pembina.org


(1) Available here: alberta.ca/home/NewsFrame.cfm?ReleaseID=/acn/201005/2828769B3F377-C6CA-67C5-3A4E14BA6B25EA72.html

(2) This was the
conclusion of an August 2009 analysis by the Pembina Institute, which can be
found in Appendix 2 of this publication: www.pembina.org/pub/1868

(3) Available here: www.pembina.org/pub/1909

(4) Listed here: ccemc.ca/about-us/board-members-and-executive

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