Environmental groups said Thursday that any special treatment for the oilsands under new climate change rules will pit Alberta against other provinces such as Ontario and Quebec, forcing industries there to pick up the slack in making cuts.
“That’s the direction the government seems to be heading in,” said Matt Price, program manager with Environmental Defence based in Toronto.
“If they are trying to tease out some kind of way in which (emissions in) the tarsands don’t come down at all or come down more slowly than other parts of the economy, it does have serious implications.
“You need a fair system. All sectors need to be responsible for their share of cuts in order for it to work.”
Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice has said he is working toward a cap-and-trade system to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions ahead of an international climate change deal later this year in Copenhagen. Talks on that plan begin next month.
U. S. Congress is currently working on a bill to curb greenhouse gas emissions with a similar system, limiting overall pollution from large industrial sources and then allocating and selling pollution permits.
But environmentalists are raising concerns that different rules for the oilsands could compromise overall efforts to reduce emissions, while driving a wedge between the provinces.
Oilsands produce more emissions than other oil sources. Production is projected to grow significantly over the next decade, although the recent downturn in oil prices has forced the cancellation or deferrals of several projects. A low-case forecast released this week by U. S. energy consultancy IHS CERA expects production to still rise to 2.3 million barrels a day, one million barrels above current production levels.
Greg Stringham, vice-president with Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the oilsands industry isn’t pushing for special consideration under new emissions rules.
“We’re just looking for equal treatment. We want to have the ability to grow . . . but so do a lot of the other industries that are involved in that other 80 per cent of emissions in Canada,” he said.
“We’ve got to find a policy that allows that growth to happen, while still at the same time managing those GHG emissions.”
The comments came as a U. S. think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, released a report Thursday that called on Canada and the U. S. to integrate cap-and-trade systems, while targeting U. S. support for technology to higher-payoff areas, such as carbon capture for power plants to reduce emissions.
But it also warns against rushing low-carbon fuel standards — already being put forward in the United States–and misuse of other U. S. environmental rules to constrain oilsands development.
“Smart regulation can place a fair and reasonable price on the oilsands’ greenhouse gas emissions, providing the right incentive to reduce them,” said Michael Levi, author of the report, titled The Canadian Oil Sands: Energy Security vs. Climate Change.
“But ill-conceived regulation could undermine U. S. and Canadian climate and security goals.”