No room for tar sands expansion in a meaningful climate and energy strategy; New study shows that tar sands growth and cutting carbon are incompatible
With the premiers set to meet in Quebec City next week to discuss climate change and a Canadian energy strategy, a new study from Environmental Defence and Greenpeace Canada shows that continuing to expand tar sands production makes it almost impossible for Canada to meet even weak carbon reduction targets.
“It’s ridiculous that politicians claim to want to address climate change while also wanting tar sands production to grow. These are totally incompatible goals,” says Dale Marshall, national program manager at Environmental Defence. “It’s time our leaders realize that Canada can’t get serious on climate change while global warming emissions from the tar sands skyrocket.”
The study, Digging a Big Hole: How tar sands expansion undermines a Canadian energy strategy that shows climate leadership, highlights that Canada’s emissions have increased by 18 per cent since 1990. Alberta is responsible for 73 per cent of that growth, and the tar sands are the main driver for that. While emissions have declined or held steady in all other oil and gas sub-sectors, emissions from the tar sands have soared, more than doubling since 2000.
If the tar sands continue to grow, by 2020, emissions from Alberta, with just 11 per cent of Canada’s population, will approach pollution levels in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia combined, which together have 75 per cent of the population.
The study shows that to offset emissions growth in the tar sands, Herculean efforts would be required by other provinces or sectors for Canada to reach its 2020 targets, such as converting all Canadian cars and trucks to electric vehicles or decarbonizing British Columbia, the Atlantic Provinces, and the territories.
“It’s great to see provincial leaders recognize that you can’t talk about a national energy strategy without acknowledging that it will inevitably be Canada’s real climate strategy,” said Keith Stewart, head of Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy team. “The Environment Canada data we have released today shows that any politician saying we can fight climate change while building new tar sands pipelines should be taken as seriously as those late-night infomercials claiming you can lose weight without changing what you eat or how much you exercise.”
The study argues that embedding climate change into a Canadian energy strategy means that the primary goal of that strategy must be to transition Canada away from fossil fuel production and use. ”That’s the test,” adds Marshall. “Is this strategy actually about moving away from fossil fuels, or is it cover for producing more? An energy strategy that is actually about building pipelines isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
The release of this study comes just days before Saturday’s Act on Climate march, when thousands of Canadians will take to the streets of Quebec City to urge our elected leaders to take meaningful climate action.
Read the study here.
For more information, please contact:
Naomi Carniol, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext 258; 416-570-2878 (cell)
Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada, 416-659-0294