A new climate alliance to be launched at COP26 targets the oil and gas industry, pressuring Canada to set a clear date to end oil and gas extraction there. The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, led by Denmark and Costa Rica, will bring together countries and subnational entities willing to set an end date for fossil fuel extraction. The list of signatories will be released in Glasgow, Scotland, at the big climate conference that starts next week.
“We believe that to be a climate leader you must also lead the tough issues, and ending oil and gas extraction is certainly one of the defining issues for climate action,” said Tomas Anker Christensen , Danish Ambassador for the Climate, in an interview with Radio-Canada The House aired on saturday.
Denmark announced last year that it would stop issuing new licenses for oil and gas exploration as part of a broader plan to phase out extraction by 2050. Denmark is the largest oil producer in the European Union since the UK left the bloc in 2020.
Echoing the words of his country’s energy minister, Christensen questioned how countries can hope to meet their net zero commitments by 2050 while expanding oil and gas production.
“It’s a paradox. It’s hard to imagine how you do both, ”he told guest host Laura Lynch. The International Energy Agency said in a recent report that countries pushing for a net zero world by 2050 have no reason to invest in expanding oil production after this year.
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But it’s unclear whether Canada will join the fledgling alliance, given its status as the world’s fourth-largest producer and third-largest exporter of oil.
The IEA report suggests that Canadian oil production will continue to grow until 2030 under existing policies. Even under the policies proposed by the government, Canadian production will only drop by 100,000 barrels per day by then, the agency estimates, compared to more than five million barrels per day produced in 2020.
Respond to a request for comment from The House, the federal government did not say whether it intended to join the Beyond Oil and Gas alliance, but said climate change was both a “competitiveness issue” and an “economic opportunity” for oil and gas.
“The majority of oil and gas companies have already committed to achieving net zero by 2050, and in order to reach our common goal, emissions from the oil and gas sector must go down,” said Joanna, press officer of the Minister of the Environment Jonathan Wilkinson. Sivasankaran, in a statement to the media.
“We are committed to our platform and have a strong mandate to ensure that pollution from the oil and gas sector does not increase from current levels and instead decreases at the rate and scale necessary to achieve the net worth by 2050. ”
Oil and gas extraction has been responsible for much of the growth in emissions over the past decade, from 63 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2005 to 105 in 2019.
The Canadian oil industry has argued that it is firmly committed to reducing emissions and investing in clean energy technology.
No Quebec decision yet
Simon Donner, professor and climatologist at the University of British Columbia who is also part of the Canadian advisory body Net-Zero, said The House Canada is unlikely to join the alliance at this point.
“I think it would be a great signal to the rest of the world for Canada to join such an initiative. I don’t think we’re probably ready to do that, however, right now, ”he said.
But Canada could be overtaken by subnational groups. California, for example, has set a goal this year to end oil extraction by 2045.
Closer to home, Quebec Premier François Legault announced his intention to ban all oil and gas extraction in the province.
A spokesperson for Quebec Environment Minister Benoit Charette did not say whether the province would join the alliance later this month.
“The initiative is interesting but for the moment no decision has been taken,” said Charette’s press secretary Rosalie Tremblay-Cloutier in a response sent by email. Quebec currently has no commercial oil or gas production operations, although it has issued exploration permits.
An “awkward” position: expert
Catherine Abreu, founder and executive director of the Destination Zero group, said recent policy measures from Quebec and California “make them potentially eligible” to join the alliance, which would be “really important” given the potential of expansion in the oil and gas sectors of Canada and the United States over the next decade.
In an interview on The HouseAbreu said Canada’s stance on the oil and gas industry leaves it in an “awkward” position in terms of meeting its climate goals.
“We have seen our government very reluctant to take on this fossil fuel challenge,” she said.
COP26 would only make that position more difficult, added Jennifer Allan, lecturer at Cardiff University and advisor to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin.
“Well, one of the things that COPs are good for is the increasing pressure on countries,” she said. “Sometimes that really leads to a lot of pressure on governments to start doing, frankly, the right thing. “
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