Canada joins Global Methane Pledge and ups the target for fossil-related reductions

With a government announcement on October 11, Canada joined twenty-three other countries and signed on to the Global Methane Pledge, launched by the U.S. and the U.K. on September 18.  By signing on, Canada pledges to reduce all methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030, and as described by the Washington Post (Oct. 11), Canada’s participation is significant because it is one of the world’s top 20 methane-emitting countries. Nine of the twenty have now signed on to the Global Pledge, but notably, Russia, China, India and Brazil have not.

The existing Canadian target for reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is a reduction of 40–45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025. According to the October 11 press release, that will increase, with a commitment  “… to developing a plan to reduce methane emissions across the broader Canadian economy and to reducing oil and gas methane emissions by at least 75 percent below 2012 levels by 2030”. It is noteworthy that the Minister also states: “our approach will include regulations” , since the government has been criticized for relying more on taxpayer-funded incentives than regulation – as in “Canada supports global pledge to slash oil and gas methane”  (Oct. 13). That article quotes Julia Levine of Environmental Defence, who states: ““What we see in Canada is that despite the fact negative or low-cost (methane reductions) could be achieved through regulations, the federal government last year set up a $750-million emission reduction fund (that) is paying companies to reduce their methane emissions” …. “These are technologies that allow companies to have less leakage and, therefore, more product they can sell” …. So we’re subsidizing their ability to generate more profit from their products.”

Canada’s 75% pledge related to the oil and gas industry matches the  target called for by the International Energy Agency in Curtailing Methane Emissions from Fossil Fuel Operations , released on October 7. But as pointed out by another IEA report, Driving down methane leaks from the oil and gas industry   (January 2021), targets can only work if measurement of leaks is accurate. As scientists have proven , Canada’s methane leaks have been under-reported in the past.

Groundbreaking moment as Canada passes climate accountability law

Down to the wire on June 29, before adjourning for summer recess, the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.   C-12 had been approved in the House of Commons on June 22, following a determined campaign by environmental advocacy groups, described by Climate Action Network-Canada here . And Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law wrote, urging passage in  “To amend or not to amend – Why Bill C-12 should be passed even though it could be better” (June 16) .

The reactions of many of those groups are compiled in “Senate Vote on Climate Accountability Act Counters ‘Decades of Broken Promises’”  (The Energy Mix, June 30)   – including Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment,  Climate Action Network-Canada, Ecojustice,  Leadnow, and West Coast Environmental Law. Their general consensus was that the bill is far from perfect, but as Catherine Abreu of CAN_RAC states, it is : “a groundbreaking moment and ushers Canada into a new era of accountability to its climate commitments.”   EcoJustice provides an excellent summary and reaction here , pointing out the positives, such as clearer, more detailed GHG reduction targets, improved timelines, and a requirement for 5-year reviews. However, many remain concerned about “the independence of its advisory body, transparency around the role of provinces and territories in achieving Canada’s climate targets, and how we define the term “net-zero.” ”

The full Legislative history of C-12 is here, including links to the meetings of and briefs to the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, and the Senate Pre-Study of the Bill. For an excellent summary, see “How Bill C-12 aims to guide Canada to net-zero” (National Observer, June 30).

Canada’s oil and gas industry provides Canada with declining royalty revenues, jobs

Earth scientist David Hughes argues that Canada cannot possibly meet its national GHG emissions targets while expanding exports in the oil and gas industry, building pipelines, and developing liquified natural gas in a new report, Canada’s Energy Sector: Status, evolution, revenue, employment, production forecasts, emissions and implications for emissions reduction, released on June 1.   Hughes documents the declining health and importance of the sector with economic statistics: “The energy sector’s contribution to Canada’s GDP, currently at 9 per cent, has declined over the past two decades, and government revenues from royalties and taxes have dropped precipitously. Despite record production levels, royalty revenue is down 45 per cent since 2000, and tax revenues from the oil and gas sector, which totalled over 14 per cent of all industry taxes as recently as 2009, declined to less than 4 per cent in 2018. Direct employment, which peaked at over 226,000 workers in 2014, was down by 53,000 in 2019 although production was at an all-time high due to efficiencies adopted by the industry.”

Combining statistics from the Petroleum Labour Market Information office with industry projections from the federal Canada Energy Regulator, Hughes concludes that energy jobs have peaked and previous levels of employment are unlikely to return.

“Jobs are often cited by industry proponents as a reason to support expansion of oil and gas production. Yet despite record production levels, jobs in the oil and gas sector are down from their peak in 2014 by 23 per cent …..Thanks to technological advances, the sector has become more efficient and is able to increase production using fewer workers….This jobs scenario is particularly true in the oil sands, where much of the production growth is expected. Oil sands production per employee is 70 per cent higher than it was in 2011 (production per employee has increased by 37 per cent in conventional oil and gas and by 50 per cent in the sector overall since 2011). In Canada’s overall employment picture, the oil and gas sector accounted for only 1 per cent of direct employment in 2019 (5.5 per cent in Alberta).”

At the same time, oil and gas production accounts for the largest portion of GHG emissions in Canada, at 26 per cent of the total – and Canada‘s GHG emissions have actually increased by 3.3 per cent since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016 – the highest increase of any G7 country.  With such limited benefits and such serious negative consequences, Hughes argues against expansion of oil and gas exports – especially LNG in British Columbia and the TransMountain pipeline expansion, and Line 3.

Canada’s Energy Sector: Status, evolution, revenue, employment, production forecasts, emissions and implications for emissions reduction is summarized by the National Observer, here. Author David Hughes has written substantive reports previously, for example: A Clear Look at B.C. LNG (2015); Can Canada increase oil and gas production, build pipelines and meet its climate commitments? ( 2016); B.C’s Carbon Conundrum: Why LNG exports doom emissions-reduction targets and compromise Canada’s long-term energy security (2020); and Reassessment of Need for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion: Project Production forecasts, economics and environmental considerations (2020).

The full report was published by the Corporate Mapping Project, a project of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in British Columbia and the Parkland Institute in Alberta. The report was co-published with Stand.earth, West Coast Environmental Law, and 350.org.

Provincial Policy updates: New Brunswick

On October 24, the Final Report of the Select Committee on Climate Change was tabled by the Legislative Committee.  The report,  New Brunswickers’ Response to Climate Change , is built on community consultations based on a discussion paper  from April 2016 . Amongst the recommendations of the Select Committee:  a cabinet committee devoted to climate change, as well as climate change legislation, to accomplish the following goals: GHG emissions reduction targets of 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 per cent below 2001 levels by 2050; phase out of  fossil fuel electricity generation by 2030 with a target of 60% for in-province electricity sales from renewable sources by 2030 ; energy efficiency targets for all government owned and funded facilities;  a permanent, independent provincial agency with a mandate for energy efficiency and promotion of renewable energy; a target of 5,000 electric vehicles in the province by 2020 and 20,000 by 2030, and electrifying the government vehicle fleet; focusing on industrial energy efficiency; exploring opportunities for carbon offset markets; and establishing a “made in New Brunswick”carbon pricing mechanism .