Canada’s energy sector is world-leading in scale and capabilities, but it has been progressively hampered by political, legal and regulatory processes and hostile activism. There’s no justification for the damage we have done to ourselves. The common explanations come wrapped in concern and criticism about our energy sector’s environmental, social and governance standards.
The problem is not what most believe. We are arguably “best in the world” for our standards and performance. Nor is the problem that the industry denies climate change. The problem is misinformation and misunderstanding, the failure to grasp actual realities, the unwillingness to collaborate and a lack of visionary leadership.
The energy and climate vision we are now pursuing may “feel good” for some Canadians and create electoral gains for some political leaders, but the impact on global emissions and climate risk may be insignificant or even adverse.
Canada is responsibly committed to reducing its level of greenhouse gas emissions from all sources. But we are important in a way that is different than our political leaders seem to understand.
We are not important as a source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Our oilsands contribute only 0.15 per cent of global emissions. In 2018, total emissions from China and India were about 12,000 megatonnes, which is equivalent to 150 Canadian oilsands. Just the year over year growth in emissions from China and India was equivalent to adding 10 Canadian oilsands.
How is it possible to argue that Canada’s oilsands are somehow a material factor in causing a global climate crisis? This is an example of grotesque and dangerous misinformation; dangerous to Canada’s economic and social well-being and worse, as it is evolving, dangerous to our unity.
If we phase out our oilsands, or even our entire oil and gas upstream business, the lost volumes would be replaced by supplies from other countries. These other suppliers would also generate greenhouse gas emissions through their own extraction processes. The net reduction in global emissions would be negligible, if anything at all. We are just shifting emissions to other jurisdictions, along with investment capital, jobs and a tax base. This is a real risk in our existing strategy.
Another critical understanding relates to the importance of innovation.
Emissions per barrel from our oilsands are down 29 per cent since 2000 and expected to decline another 20 per cent through to 2030.
As a major exporter, it is critically important to note that emission levels from new oilsands projects are close to, or even below, the average level of crude oil within U.S. and world markets. Through offering a “better barrel” into world markets, we will be reducing global emissions.
It is extraordinary that certain leading producers, notably Canadian Natural Resources, which is Canada’s largest oil and gas producer, is committing to becoming a net-zero emitter. They’re doing this through world-leading advanced technologies — not by shutting down or phasing out.
In addition to improving emissions performance, there are numerous other attainments that evidence our world-leading ESG position.
Canada is a recognized leader in methane reductions relating to flaring and venting.
We are a world leader in carbon capture and storage.
Our worker safety record is exemplary.
We are the largest employer of Indigenous peoples in Canada and most Indigenous groups are now aligned with responsible development.
We have a world-class pipeline system and comparatively minimal spills.
We have a world-class marine safety system. There are approximately 20,000 tanker movements per year on the East and West coasts and there have been no significant oil spills.
We are committed to developing LNG facilities that will have the lowest emissions in the world. The International Energy Agency recognizes that new LNG projects, and, specifically, projects in Canada, will significantly reduce global emissions.
The LNG Canada facility in B.C. is estimated to reduce global emissions by 60 million to 90 million tons by replacing coal in China. This is equivalent to removing 80 per cent of the cars on Canada’s roads.
The opportunity is to advance the development of a clean, ethical Canadian energy brand based on innovation and a long-term commitment to a low carbon future.
This is how we can be important; not by withdrawing and dismantling. We can be an important part of a global solution through leveraging our proven expertise, technologies and advanced regulatory and governance standards.
Canada is uniquely positioned to be a global leader in both ethical, responsible energy development and environmental stewardship.