New Alberta government should implement the 100 megatonne limit on carbon emissions, say environmental groups

Toronto, Ont. –  New data shows that Alberta’s legislated cap on greenhouse gas emissions may be close to being exceeded, requiring the immediate passage of regulations needed to implement the cap.

New research by scientists with Environment and Climate Change Canada, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows emissions from surface oil sands mining are 30 per cent higher, on average, than reported by the companies. If this applies to all oil sands operations, Alberta’s emissions cap may have already been exceeded.

“Breaking through the cap would violate a legally binding promise made to the world by Alberta,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director of Stand.Earth. “This would also require federal action to ensure that spiralling emission increases do not violate Canada’s climate change commitments.”

Oil sands are the fastest growing source of carbon emissions in Canada. To address this growing climate threat, in 2016 the Alberta government passed the Alberta Oil Sands Emission Limit Act. The act sets out a limit of 100 megatonnes (MT) of emissions that can be released from the oil sands each year. However, to be implementable, the act requires the development of a regulatory process to assign space under this cap to different operators and to allow accurate tracking of emissions so the cap is respected.

According to Canada’s latest GHG inventory, emissions have increased from 71 MT/year in 2015 to 81 MT in 2017, an increase of 14% in just two years. If oil sands operations’ emissions are 30 per cent higher than reported, as demonstrated by the recent study in Nature Communications, total emissions from the oil sands could be 105 MT or higher.

The Oil Sands Advisory Group, established by the Alberta government, delivered consensus recommendations on this regulatory framework two years ago, but it has not been implemented.

“We are rapidly approaching, or perhaps even exceeding, the emissions limit legislated by the Alberta government,” said Keith Brooks of Environmental Defence Canada.  “It’s urgent the government implements the regulations meant to orderly assign emission space to each oil sands facility. Further delay will greatly increase the chances that the cap will be exceeded.”

About STAND.EARTH: Stand.earth (formerly ForestEthics) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with offices in Canada and the United States that is known for its groundbreaking research and successful corporate and citizens engagement campaigns to create new policies and industry standards in protecting forests, advocating the rights of indigenous peoples, and protecting the climate. Visit us at www.stand.earth and follow us on Twitter @standearth.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Barbara Hayes; Communications Manager, Environmental Defence;  bhayes@environmentaldfence.ca