Pembina Institute released a report last month showing how rising oil sands emissions are conflicting with Canada’s 2030 and 2050 climate commitments. The report from the energy think tank also shows how governments and industry can help ensure the sector remains competitive while it improves carbon performance.
In the report, The oil sands in a carbon-constrained Canada: The collision course between overall emissions and national climate commitments, Pembina says that while industry has worked toward decreasing oil sands emissions intensity, overall emissions are rising, making the sector the fastest-growing source of emissions in the country.
Absolute carbon emissions from the oil sands continue to increase overall, and could represent 22 per cent of Canada’s carbon budget by 2030.
“The pathway to make Canada’s oil sands carbon-neutral will not be easy, and will only be more difficult if the discussion is not grounded in fact,” said Chris Severson-Baker, Alberta Regional Director, Pembina Institute.
Severson-Baker adds “This report answers some of the key questions around oil sands and describes the challenge to go well beyond the incremental gains that have been made to date to reduce total emissions for the sector by 2030 and ultimately achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.”
Pembina says in compiling the report, it used the best available research and data to clearly outline carbon intensity differences across the sector. It also notes the difficulty of making generalized claims about carbon emissions intensity performance and highlights the fact that more carbon-intense crudes will be at risk of being stranded as the market demands less carbon-intensive sources of oil.
“The oil sands’ competitiveness will depend on the ability to rapidly implement meaningful policy changes and deploy breakthrough innovation – beyond incremental improvements – that will dramatically lower Canada’s oil sands emissions intensity to the low end of the global oil supply curve,” said Benjamin Israel, Senior Analyst, Pembina Institute.
In The oil sands in a carbon-constrained Canada, the Pembina Institute includes detailed recommendations for the federal and Alberta governments, and industry, to ensure the oil sands sector decreases its absolute emissions in line with Canada’s climate commitments and remains competitive in a decarbonizing, 21st-century global economy:
- Establish strong regulations to decarbonize the industry;
- Define and enforce sector emissions targets for 2030 and 2050, with five-year increments;
- Support an innovation ecosystem to deliver breakthrough technologies, funded by industry;
- Improve emissions monitoring and reporting to produce coherent data and enhance transparency;
- Appoint transparent and independent energy regulators both federally and provincially, with the mandate to enforce regulations and capacity to follow through.
Simon Dyer, Executive Director, Pembina Institute said “The global problem of climate change is too complex for any of us to solve alone.” He added “We urgently need to work together to prepare Canada to compete in a low-carbon economy.”
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