Rachel Notley, previous premier of Alberta, released a climate change policy plan and said that Alberta had done its part to gain social licence for a pipeline expansion with the associated tarsands/oilsands expansion.
The plan included “five key pillars:
1) Carbon will be priced economy-wide at $30/tonne by 2018.
2) Coal-fired power plants will be phased out by 2030.
3) Oilsands emissions will be capped at 100 megatonnes (Mt) per year (recent Environment Canada figures predicted a 2020 output of 103 Mt from the sector), which amounts to allowing current construction to go ahead, but that’s it. That means to expand production beyond current projects, per barrel emissions will need to be reduced.
4) Methane emissions from oil and gas operations will be cut by 45 per cent in 2025.
5) 30 per cent of all electricity will be generated by renewables by 2030.”
“Prime Minister Trudeau says Alberta’s 100 million tonne “absolute cap on oilsands emissions” was a key factor in approving Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion” which will pipe oil from Alberta to B.C.’s coast for export. (b) He is also using this same cap as a reason to “exempt some oilsands projects from environmental assessments”. (c)
So, What has Alberta done?
(1) The carbon price has been removed by new Alberta premier Jason Kenney and Alberta has taken the federal government to court over the federal climate plan. (d) Alberta’s Technology Innovation and Emissions Reductions (TIER) fund “would target large industrial emitters, requiring them to reduce their emissions intensity — notably, this is different from their total emissions, as it is dependent on economic output — compared to their own recent annual averages”. (i) I suspect this is mostly window-dressing.
(2) “Coal-fired electrical plants which need to close by 2030 under federal law would be allowed to remain open indefinitely if federal rules change. The UCP would require coal facilities after 2030 to be as clean as the most efficient gas-fired plants.” (j)
(3) The 100 Mt limit is “43% above 2015 levels”, so room to expand and pollute. (e) According to a National Observer article the 100 Mt. Limit has very large loopholes. The Electricity co-generation is exempt, the primary oil production is exempt, Upgraders are exempt, all emissions in Saskatchewan are exempt, enhanced recovery is exempt, and experimental schemes are exempt. (h) There are, as yet, no regulations regarding who gets to pollute and who doesn’t when they hit the l00 mt limit. (d) So, as Ian Hussey, research manager at the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta says “Alberta’s oilsands’s emissions cap is not operating in practice”. (i) In other words, so far, it’s just words on paper, a scam “Oil Sands Emissions Limit Act legislating the 100 megatonne emissions cap” is the law` (d) but when the 100 Mt limit has been reached, the “law” can be ignored or changed in a heartbeat. And the emissions numbers can also be “creatively” determined so they stay below 100 Mt.; scientific studies “show that AB oil & gas industry emissions are grossly under-reported”. (d) So, at this point, the “law” is just words on paper. Kenney has said he will remove the cap (j) and has said that he will “rapidly accelerate the approval of new drilling”. (c) But he really has no reason to remove the cap until it reaches the limit. In the meantime it’s a great con to get the pipeline approval and exemptions.
(4) methane gas emission – According to the Pembina Institute if Alberta follows the “federal methane regulations enacted earlier this year by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), they would only reduce methane gas emissions by 36%, not the 45% stated in their climate plan”. (f)
(5) Kenney has said he will “no longer provide subsidies to uneconomic wind and solar power generation”. (f) “Alberta too should get out of the subsidy business to ‘keep the door wide open’ for increasing wind and solar energy projects where they’re affordable.” (g); fine but then quit subsidizing the oil and gas industry because apparently they are not really affordable. (l) The oil and gas subsidies, I suspect, make it harder for renewable projects to be affordable when it’s competing on an uneven playing field. But, maybe that’s intentional.
So, what has Canada really gotten in return for the approval to expand the pipeline: NOTHING
(1) We won’t be able to meet our Paris Agreement commitments, and unknown numbers of species, including us, will suffer and many will die
(2) The $4.5 billion cost of the Kinder Morgan pipeline PLUS the unknown billions more for an expansion
(3) Canada’s reputation. Trudeau said “Canada is back my friends”. (k) I thought that we would leaders in carbon emissions reduction and the new economy, exporting our knowledge and technology. Instead, we will be seen as the farcical hypocrites that we are.
And yet, despite the fact that we are getting nothing in return, Trudeau has recently approved the expansion of the pipeline (m). So, when “Prime Minister Trudeau says Alberta’s 100 million tonne “absolute cap on oilsands emissions” was a key factor in approving Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion” (c) and that the pipeline was necessary to get Alberta into the carbon tax program, he lied, he was conning us; it was just the cover story to get the pipeline expansion built.
Do I think the other parties would do better? NO.
(a) Alberta Climate Announcement Puts End to Infinite Growth of Oilsands – James Wilt, 23 Nov 2015, The Narwhal
(b) ‘Hard cap’ for oilsands climate pollution has loopholes the size of Nova Scotia – Barry Saxifrage, 20 Mar 2018, National Observer
(c) Ottawa will exempt some oilsands projects from environmental assessments – if Alberta keeps its emissions cap – John Paul Tasker, 02 May 2019, CBC News
(d) Alberta’s election platforms compared: Where the NDP and UCP stand on everything from child care to carbon taxes – Justin Giovannetti, 12 Apr 2019, The Globe and Mail
(e) Three years after promising to cap oilsands pollution, Notley government still needs more time – Carl Meyer, 14 Dec 2018, National Observer
(f) Alberta’s methane regulations will fail to meet provincial reduction target – 13 Dec 2018, Pembina Institute
(g) Kenny’s pledge to end wind and solar subsidies would ‘roll back the clock,’ says energy expert – Helen Pike, 22 Feb 2019, CBC News
(h) ‘Hard cap’ for oilsands climate pollution has loopholes the size of Nova Scotia – Barry Saxifrage, 20 Mar 2018, National Observer
(i) Eight environmental issues at stake in the Alberta election (that are not pipelines) – Sharon J. Riley, 10 Apr 2019, The Narwhal
(j) Alberta’s UCP reveal platform that would reduce spending, replace carbon tax with levy on large emitters – Justin Giovannetti, 30 Mar 2019, Globe and Mail
(k) In Paris, Trudeau ‘Here to Help’ but Quiet on New Emissions Targets – Geoff Dembicki, 01 Dec 2015, TheTyee.ca
(l) How Much Are We Paying the Oil and Gas Corporations to Take Our Resources – http://hospitalsandprivacyandpolitics.noblogs.org
(m) Eight Hard Questions for the PM of Pipelines and Climate Emergency – Michael Harris, 19 Jun 2019, TheTyee.ca