The Syncrude oil sands extraction facility is reflected in a tailings pond near the city of Fort McMurray, Alta., on June 1, 2014. Canadian environment groups are at the global climate change conference in Poland today calling out the federal government for allowing the oil and gas industry to systematically weaken Canada’s efforts to be a climate leader. Environmental Defence and Stand Earth are among the groups releasing a report which shows emissions from the oil and gas sector continue to rise and intensive lobbying from the industry means about 80 per cent of those emissions will be exempt from the carbon price. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Canada not slowing emissions from oil and gas: environmental groups

New report released at the United Nations climate talks in Poland

Canada is living in a fantasy if the government thinks it can meet its greenhouse-gas promises without reducing how much oil and gas the country produces, environment groups told the world at a global conference on climate change Monday.

Environmental Defence and Stand.earth used United Nations climate talks in Poland to release a new report accusing the oil-and-gas industry of undermining Canada’s climate plans.

“Oil and gas is the major obstacle to Canada actually being a climate leader and not just talking about being a climate leader,” said Dale Marshall, national program manager for Environmental Defence.

The report accuses the industry of successfully lobbying Canada to water down climate policies or exempt it from them, including delaying cuts to methane emissions from oil-production facilities and exempting up to 80 per cent of oilsands emissions from the federal carbon price due to kick in next year.

RELATED: ‘Bit frightening:’ Study finds most Canadian cities fail on climate change plans

Marshall said Canada’s policies to allow oilsands production to expand, and even buying the Trans Mountain pipeline to facilitate that expansion, are counterintuitive for a government that keeps claiming it wants to be at the forefront of global climate action.

Patrick McDonald, the director of climate for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, dismissed the report as a ”targeted effort by special interest groups looking at only our industry.”

McDonald said the Canadian oil-and-gas industry is the only one in the world subjected to a carbon tax and that it is innovating to reduce emissions.

“We’ve been very active and very environmentally responsible,” he said.

The report, however, says the emissions from each barrel of oil produced in Canada have grown 20 per cent between 1990 and 2016.

Catherine Abreu, the executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, said at a news conference at the meeting in Poland Monday that even if the industry can use technology to reduce emissions per unit of oil, gas or coal produced, that’s just a temporary fix in a world where the long-term plan has to be to stop using fossil fuels entirely.

“There are a lot of countries who, like Canada, seem to be under the impression that their fossil fuels are somehow different from everyone else’s fossil fuels,” she said. “As if their coal, oil or natural gas is magically non-emitting and actually good for the climate, while everyone else’s fossil fuels are the problem.”

The Paris agreement, the operative pact meant to head off the worst of climate change, committed the nations of the world to cutting emissions and the amount of carbon pollution trapped in the atmosphere enough to keep the average global temperature from rising no more than 2 C compared to pre-industrial times. They’re supposed to try to keep the temperature increase as close to 1.5 C as possible.

RELATED: Sounding the climate change alarm bell

The difference between the two is significant, with millions more people displaced at 2 C due to rising sea levels, extreme temperatures, and severe storms, as well as serious impacts on the world’s food supply and greater spread of disease, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Right now the world’s policies have it on track to exceed 3 C in warming by the end of the century.

Canada is currently planning to trim its emissions by about 200 million tonnes a year — the equivalent to what is produced by about 44 million passenger cars — but a recent UN report from dozens of respected climate scientists said that if the 1.5 C target has any hope of being met, Canada’s share of the necessary emissions reductions would be more like 400 million tonnes.

The oil-and-gas sector is one of the few areas where emissions are still increasing in Canada. Tzeporah Berman, international programs director at Stand.earth, said if oil-sector emissions keep growing, Canada will have to “squeeze” every other province and industry to get them to cut even more. Since most of the existing plan addresses the easiest and cheapest reductions we can get, cutting those other sectors further would require more costly and difficult regulations and policies, she said.

The Alberta government is looking at capping oilsands emissions at 100 million tonnes a year as part of its climate plan, with a view to expanding production as technology advances to reduce the emissions from each barrel of oil produced. But no such policy has yet been implemented.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Reported Kelowna Hells Angels member dies in Fraser Valley motorcycle crash

Michael “Speedy” Christiansen was found dead on Monday morning near Ruby Creek on Highway 7

Search continues for wheelchair, camera, stolen near West Kelowna

Police say the man relies on the wheelchair, as he is mobility challenged

Canada West Golf Championships cancelled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions

UBC, UBC-O, UFV and UVic athletes will not hit the links this year, Kelowna was set to host

Westbank First Nation captures economic development award

Ntityix Development Corporation was handed the Aboriginal Economic Development Corporation Award

Okanagan temperatures hit 30 C by end of September

The autumn equinox takes place in the northern hemisphere on Sept. 22

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

South Okanagan film production seeking extras

Change of Pace is set to begin filming in Penticton Sept. 28

Four wanted individuals believed to be in Vernon

RCMP seek public’s assistance in locating three men and one woman

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

COVID-19 makes its mark on Shuswap schools, teachers and parents

Pandemic keeps more students than expected away from conventional schooling

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

Most Read