Canada Hiding Its Carbon Emissions Growth Amidst Rapid Tar Sands Boom

Read time: 4 mins

Each year, in advance of United Nations (U.N.) climate discussions, governments around the world submit an inventory of their carbon emissions. This year, Canada is taking a unique approach to lower its reported emissions in preparing the annual carbon inventory – it has purposefully excluded information in order to give the false impression that when it comes to climate-altering tar sands pollution, “everything is fine.”

In reality, Canada’s carbon emissions have tripled since 1990, and Canada is making only minor progress to lower its carbon production 17% by 2020, according to Environment Canada’s own figures.

Last week, however, it was revealed that in the 567-page report detailing the country’s emissions, the Canadian government decided not to include 2009 data. Why? Perhaps because it documents a 20% increase in pollution from Alberta’s tar sands industry. The elusive data was only gradually released through emails in response to an investigation by Postmedia News.
Canada’s effort to hide tar sands pollution is frightening, greenwashing aside, for several reasons:

•    Tar sands makes up about 6.5% of the country’s total emissions, and is arguably the most important contributor to the country’s overall emissions (up 11% in 2009);
•    Canada is the world’s sixth largest oil producer and tar sands production is expected to increase to 3.5 billion barrels of oil per day by 2015, to 4.2 billion barrels by 2020 and  rising to 4.7 billion barrels by 2025 – an increase of 68% by 2025;
•    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that carbon emissions from tar sands oil is approximately 82% higher than average oil.

The government’s most recent data reveals that the rules in place to control tar sands pollution are not effective, since the industry has failed to lower emissions intensity per barrel of oil, as required. Mark Johnson, spokesman for Environment Canada said the newly released 2009 figures showed that there is “very little change in the total emissions intensity in oilsands.” In fact, industry claims that emissions per barrel had improved 39% since 1990, have been revised to around 29%.

Previously, the tar sands industry responded to challenges on its environmental practices by cultivating an image that the tar sands represent “ethical oil” as compared to importing oil from countries like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela or Nigeria. Oil producers even commissioned Cambridge Energy Research Associates to prepare a report [pdf] suggesting that emissions from tar sands oil is merely 5-15% higher than traditional oil.

Now the dirty oil industry is not even trying to defend spiraling emissions growth. According to Travis Davies, spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the industry believes it can still clean its operations through “incremental improvements” over the next five years.

Unfortunately, incremental steps will do little to help Canada achieve progress towards its lagging pollution-reduction goals, which are not aggressive enough to match the scientific evidence of anticipated climate change impacts.

In January, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy called [pdf] on Canada to stop waiting for the U.S. to take action on climate change. More recently, the Conference Board of Canada predicts continued failure on climate action in a highly critical report describing the lack of coordinated efforts between the Canadian federal and provincial governments.

At this month’s ongoing U.N. climate discussions in Bonn, Germany, Canada is being challenged by officials from Australia, China, Lebanon, the United Kingdom and the Philippines who are questioning government fossil fuel subsidies, tar sands emissions disclosure, the lack of low-carbon investments and the basis for the country’s weak emissions reduction target.

Peter Betts, the lead European Union negotiator and a director at the United Kingdom’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, says he was “struck that the colleague from Canada didn’t refer to the tarsands issue, or at least only once in passing…”

Canadian negotiators seem unfazed by the criticism, content to remain laggards on climate action. They not only admit but boast that the Harper-led government will not meet the emissions reduction commitments Canada agreed to under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Judith Gelbman, a member of Canada’s delegation, sums up Canada’s politically-motivated position:

“Now that we’ve finished our election we can say now that Canada will not be taking a target under a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.”

Get DeSmog News and Alerts



The OIL Sands emits 6.5 percent of Canadas miniscule 2 percent of Global emmissions of a harmless trace gas.

Wow…. that is sssooooooo important.

That just about sums it up. They don’t really want folks to know just how small Canada’s contribution is, so they show lots of low angle images of industrial steam and smoke stacks destroying the whole world. Lol!

Interesting Lionel.

Now tell me… What difference would my name make to the content of my comments?

I dont care who you are… why would anyone care who I am?

Or is this just another way you deniers try to imply a credibility problem.

Like… Paid by engergy company,
Drove a car once.
Heats house with oil.
Watched Fox news once.

all silly and irrelevent.

As someone else who is uncomfortable using my real identity online, I do side with anonymous on this particular issue. As far as I’m concerned, Lionel’s name is a nom de guerre as well, and it doesn’t affect the content of what he’s saying.

What is relevant is the tar sands, and anonymous’ response to it is typical of someone who is too lazy, both physically and intellectually, to deal with reality.

By evaluating every carbon emission in terms of its global importance, anonymous effectively lets everyone off the hook, because nothing then is worthy enough to address. Rwandan genocide? In terms of global human population, it was a blip. Hardly important. Depleted uranium in Iraq? Maybe dangerous in Iraq, but when taken as a global aggregate, it barely registers.

It’s a really, really weak argument, even if I know your real name.

There is an underlying point about the Oil sands that is not present in any of your other examples.

Mining the OIL sands does not cause any harm.

all your other examples caused serious harm.

Big differnece.

“Now tell me… What difference would my name make to the content of my comments?”

Makes it easier to prove you are lying. It makes it hard when so many identify themselves as anonymous then say it wasn’t them that said such & such.

Lionel uses his name, I use mine, so you can track our comments all over the blogosphere if you wish & see what has been said. I understand the need for anonymity, no one is forcing you to use your real name. Use a pseudonym, but use something so we can track your lies & your constantly changing position. Stand by your comments & leave them there for history to look back & see where you stood on this issue.

So you can raise your hand & sheepishly say “yes, I was conned by corporations”.

‘Interesting Lionel.

Now tell me… What difference would my name make to the content of my comments?’

Using a name helps in tracking who wrote what. But then to seasoned obfuscators there is little sense in being rational on this point either.

It is sensible to simply ignore anymouses which I shall do in future so no more free cheese from me. And that is the point I was making. To subtle for you anymouses that I guess.

Nice picture choice. The darkened buildings, smoke stacks spewing soot and even the clouds look an ominous color. Thats probably a more effective CO2 scare pic than a greenhouse full of flowers. They dont generally pump soot into greenhouses though, do they?

Have you seen this yet?

New paper shows global warming since 1950 was due to the Sun

Clearly no surprise to anyone paying attention.

“New paper shows global warming since 1950 was due to the Sun ”

Lol, nice graph & cherry picking. Starting in 1998? Come off it.

Also the key words there are “submitted”. Monckton “submitted” papers also.

LOL… Is OK Phil

I would not expect a denier to admit that somthing other than plant food was involved.

That would require heresy against doctrine on your part.

BTW; Want to be really dissillusioned?

Carefull though…. This presentation is not easy to sluff off.
You may want to just give it a pass.

I would actually like to hear from climate change deniers what they think of the impact of a government purposefully misleading the public?