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Alberta Climate Announcement Puts End to Infinite Growth of Oilsands

Alberta Climate Change Announcment

The days of infinite growth in Alberta’s oilsands are over with the Alberta government’s blockbuster climate change announcement on Sunday, which attracted broad support from industry and civil society.

This is the day that we start to mobilize capital and resources to create green jobs, green energy, green infrastructure and a strong, environmentally responsible, sustainable and visionary Alberta energy industry with a great future,” Premier Rachel Notley said. “This is the day we stop denying there is an issue, and this is the day we do our part.”

Notley and Environment & Parks Minister Shannon Phillips released a 97-page climate change policy plan, which includes five key pillars.

Prime Minister Harper’s Inaction on Climate Killed the Keystone XL Oilsands Pipeline

Stephen Harper climate change

With U.S. President Barack Obama expected to deny a permit to the Keystone XL pipeline this fall, Canada’s oil industry is looking for someone to blame.

The National Post’s Claudia Cattaneo wrote last week that “many Canadians … would see Obama’s fatal stab as a betrayal by a close friend and ally” and that others “would see it as the product of failure by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to come up with a climate change plan.”

The latter is the more logical conclusion. Obama has made his decision-making criteria clear: he won’t approve the pipeline if it exacerbates the problem of carbon pollution.

Even the U.S. State Department’s very conservative analysis states the Keystone XL pipeline would “substantially increase oilsands expansion and related emissions.” The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed.

While Canada’s energy reviews take into account “upstream benefits” — such as jobs created in the oilsands sector as a result of pipelines — they don’t even consider the upstream environmental impacts created by the expansion of the oilsands.

For all the bluster and finger-pointing, there’s no covering up the fact that Canada’s record on climate change is one of broken promises.

B.C. LNG Strategy Won’t Help Solve Global Climate Change: New Pembina Institute Report

Christy Clark at LNG Canada announcement

The B.C. government’s claim that LNG exports offer the “greatest single step British Columbia can take to fight climate change” is inaccurate in the absence of stronger global climate policies according to a new report released today by the Pembina Institute and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.

Natural gas does have a role to play in a world that avoids two degrees Celsius in global warming, but only if strong emissions reduction policies are put in place in the jurisdictions that produce and consume the gas, says the report, LNG and Climate Change: The Global Context authored by Matt Horne and Josha MacNab.

Natural gas is often described as a bridge fuel. The question is, how long should that bridge be?” says MacNab, B.C. regional director for the Pembina Institute, a national non-profit focused on transitioning Canada to a clean energy future.

Our research suggests it must be very short if we’re going to be able to get off the bridge in time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

Obama’s New Climate Plan Leaves Canada in the Dust

In the ongoing battle to win approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada has repeatedly justified its climate inaction by pointing to the fact that it shares similar emission reductions targets to the U.S. In August of last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper even wrote a letter to President Barack Obama inviting “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” if such efforts would help green-light the Keystone XL.

But this week’s announcement that Obama will use his executive authority to introduce a nationwide emissions reduction plan that targets more than 1,000 of the country’s most highly polluting power plants might leave Canada squarely in the dust.

Obama’s new plan — already being called the “most ambitious anti-global warming initiative of any U.S. president” — will introduce new standards by 2015 to decrease the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of power plants (responsible for 40 per cent of the country’s carbon pollution) by 30 per cent from their 2005 levels by 2030.

CCS Series: Alberta’s Carbon Capture and Storage Plans Stagnate as Carbon Price Lags

carbon capture and storage

This is the first installment of a two-part series on carbon capture and storage. Read Part 2, Government Subsidies Keep Alberta's CCS Dream Afloat.

Alberta is falling behind on its goal to capture 30 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year by 2020 — and growth in the carbon capture and storage (CCS) industry will only come if the price of carbon rises significantly or government mandates CCS through regulation, experts and officials say.  

Currently, only two CCS projects are in the works in Alberta. If both projects come on line in time they will sequester at best three or four million tonnes of carbon a year by 2020 — just a tenth of the province’s target.

Enhance Energy Inc. is moving ahead this spring with building its Alberta Carbon Trunk Line, which the company calls the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project.

The carbon trunk line will include a 240-kilometre pipeline to capture waste carbon from Alberta’s industrial heartland and pipe it south to the Lacombe area, where it will be injected into depleted oil reservoirs to help extract light oil, before being stored underground.

Conference Board of Canada: Economic Benefits of Tar Sands Hinge On Climate Inaction

By 2035 operators in Alberta's tar sands expect to produce 5 million barrels of the world's most environmentally dirty and energy intensive oil per day. Current daily production hovers around 2 million barrels. According to a recent Conference Board of Canada report, projected expansion of the tar sands will require roughly $364 billion in investment over the next 25 years and will create significant economic benefits for both Canada and the US.

However, the report, commissioned by the Canadian federal and Alberta provincial governments, acknowledges that the economic benefits of oil production in the tar sands hinges on continued global climate inaction.
Based on the 'New Policies Scenario' from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Conference Board report, “Fuel for Thought: The Economic Benefits of Oil Sands Investment for Canada's Regions,” anticipates Canada and other participating countries will not achieve their 2009 Copenhagen Accord goal to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Projected growth in the tar sands is consistent with at least 3.5 degrees of warming.

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Challenges Shell in Legal Hearing

Today the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is arguing that Shell Canada's proposed expansion of the Jackpine Mine in the tar sands is in violation of constitutionally protected aboriginal rights outlined in Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and Treaty 8, which the ACFN signed in 1899. Arguments against the proposal will be heard by a provincial-federal Joint Review Panel.

The ACFN participated in a Fort McMurray rally today, asking for individuals, organizations and communities across Canada to stand in solidarity with their tribe. 

“We are here today because a legal challenge may be the only remaining piece of law that can stop the destruction of our land,” said Allan Adam, chief of the ACFN. “We are thankful for the mountain of support we've been receiving. People understand the significance of this challenge and what we must do for our land.”

The proposed expansion will increase Jackpine Mine's production capacity from 200,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) to 300,000 bbl/d and will extend the mine's lifespan to 2049.

The project will add 1.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, roughly the equivalent of 280,000 additional cars on the road. The waste from the expanded project will amount to some 486 billion litres of liquid tailings including mercury, arsenic and lead, which Shell proposes to permanently bury in what is called a 'pit lake,' according to a press release.

China-Canada Investment "Straitjacket:" Interview with Gus Van Harten Part 3

This is the third and final post in the series China-Canada Investment “Straitjacket:” Exclusive Interview with Gus Van Harten. You can access Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Canada has already begun the short countdown to the day the China-Canada Investment Deal becomes ratified in the House of Commons, although the nation has been granted no opportunity to clarify or discuss the full economic or environmental significance of the agreement - the most significant in Canada's history since NAFTA.
Prime Minister Harper, who signed the agreement in Vladivostok in September, is forcing this deal through with such force and brevity it makes the undemocratic Omnibus budget bill C-38 look like a dress rehearsal. 
International investment lawyer and trade agreement expert Gus Van Harten has landed center-stage in the controversy as one of the only figures willing and qualified to speak up against the investment agreement. He told DeSmog that Canada's rush to enter into an investment deal of this sort endangers Canadian democracy, threatens Canadian sovereignty and could fracture the government's loyalty to its people. 
In this post, the final segment of our interview with Van Harten, he discusses in more detail just how bad this deal is for Canada economically and how much it threatens to corrupt our way of doing business. 

Death in the Woods: Canadian Federal Government Delays Release of Caribou Recovery Strategy - Again

This post is a part of DeSmog's investigative series: Cry Wolf.

Yesterday, the Canadian government told the nation's federal court that it will not release its long-awaited Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy. The Recovery Strategy, already 5 years overdue, represents conservationists' strongest measure of defense for dwindling caribou populations in Alberta that suffer increasing habitat loss from industrial development and intensive tar sands expansion.
The outlook for caribou in Alberta is grim, especially as they find themselves in a stand off against industrial giants backed by a federal government in favor of increasing tar sands and other industrial activity. Habitat disruption is a crucial issue for caribou who need large buffered areas of old growth forest to survive. The majority of Alberta's 12 caribou herds currently struggle with low calf survival - an issue directly related to disturbed habitat.
The Canadian and Albertan governments have historically hesitated to take meaningful measures to protect Alberta's caribou herds because such measures would not only advertise the deleterious effects of tar sands development on local wildlife and their habitat, but would require setting aside protected areas made unavailable for oil and gas development.

Terror is in the Eye of the Beholder: Alberta’s Counterterrorism Unit to Protect Oil and Gas Industry

In January, during the week before Canada’s federal hearing on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, the Harper government and Ethical Oil Institute launched an unprecedented attack on environmental organizations opposed to the pipeline and accelerated expansion of the tar sands. Resurrecting Cold War-style ‘terrorist’ rhetoric, conservative politicians like Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver referred to prominent environmental organizations as “radical groups” threatening “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda” while using “funding from foreign special interests groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”

The government and Ethical Oil singled out environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, ForestEthics, and the Pembina Institute, in an orchestrated effort to undermine the credibility of pipeline opponents and to cast doubt on their intentions for the Enbridge Pipeline hearings. 
The rhetorical campaign against these alleged ‘environmental extremists’ moved from propaganda to policy last week when the RCMP announced the creation of a new counterterrorism unit in Alberta, designed to protect Canada’s energy infrastructure from so-called ‘security threats.’


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