We Can’t Slow Climate Change Without the Energy Companies

Bigger and faster emissions reductions are possible if environmentalists and industry work together.

Ina Fassbender/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

There is a real danger that the climate debate is deteriorating into a game of name-calling, with oil and gas companies all too often portrayed as opponents of climate progress. But polarizing the debate in this fashion will not get us any closer to solving the problem. We can achieve far greater and faster emissions reductions if environmentalists and energy companies work together.

Most oil and gas companies recognize the threat of climate change and want to be part of the solution. As a sign of their seriousness, five of the largest — BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total — have joined a broad coalition, convened by the Climate Leadership Council, which I run, in backing a concrete plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions in the United States by half by 2035. These oil and gas companies are not only lending their names to this environmentally ambitious solution; they are putting their money and lobbying muscle behind it.

This marks a turning point for American climate policy and the politics surrounding the issue, because the energy majors are an indispensable part of any successful clean-energy transition. It is important to understand why the industry’s technological, economic and political support is so essential in achieving climate progress.

For starters, oil and gas companies have the scale, research and development budgets, expertise and infrastructures needed to expand low-carbon energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels and hydro, and to pioneer new technological breakthroughs. Their research and development budgets are many times larger than those of companies focusing only on renewables, and their venture capital divisions help finance many of the nation’s clean tech start-ups.

For example, 13 of the largest oil and gas companies have joined forces to launch the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative, which has committed $1 billion to an investment fund to finance the development of technologies to reduce their emissions. Several of the companies in this group have invested considerably more on their own in a range of clean tech ventures.
Active participation from the energy majors is also essential in ensuring a smooth transition to a low-carbon future that avoids major supply disruptions or price spikes. The majors cannot — and should not — abandon their core oil and gas business overnight, when nearly 60 percent of current world energy use comes from oil and gas. Nothing would be more harmful in the drive to reduce emissions — or create a faster public backlash — than blackouts, gas station lines or price spikes in electricity and transportation fuels. The public wants a green future, but not one that disrupts their lives or puts their economic well-being at risk.
Oil and gas companies cannot move faster than technology, the market and public policy permit. Markets are driven as much by demand as by supply, and it is not as if the industry’s products are sitting on the shelves. In fact, global energy demand is still increasing, up 2.3 percent in 2018.
Most importantly, producers and consumers can only do so much in the absence of supportive government policy. Energy majors need stable public policies and predictable pricing signals to accelerate long-term investments in low-carbon products and technologies. That is why a number of executives in the industry have advocated for carbon pricing, some for more than a decade.
Last year, the C.E.O.s of 10 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies issued a joint statement — following a meeting organized by the Vatican — calling for meaningful carbon pricing. The five companies mentioned above, as founding members of the Climate Leadership Council, have worked with us over the last two years to refine the details of our bipartisan carbon pricing plan.
This coalition includes corporate sector leaders from a wide range of industries, top environmental organizations and opinion leaders from across the political spectrum. The framework of the council’s plan for carbon dividends is also supported by a large and prominent group of economists. To date, more than 3,500 economists have signed a statement endorsing the outlines of our proposal, including 27 Nobel laureates in economics.

The council’s bipartisan carbon dividends plan calls for a national carbon fee starting at $40 per ton and increasing at 5 percent per year above inflation. This would establish the highest carbon price of any major emitting country. If enacted by Congress and signed by the president in 2021, it would enable the United States to exceed its 2025 commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement by a wide margin.

The plan’s environmental ambition is matched by equally strong pro-consumer, pro-business and pro-competitiveness provisions. Specifically, its other pillars include returning all the revenue directly to the American people (a family of four would receive about $2,000 a year), adjustments for carbon-intensive imports and exports to level the economic playing field, and regulatory simplification. By the latter, we mean that in the majority of cases where a carbon fee offers a more cost-effective solution, the fee would replace regulations. For example, all current and future federal stationary source carbon regulations would be displaced or pre-empted.

The corporate financial backers of an advocacy campaign to promote this plan range from oil, gas and nuclear interests to solar, wind and geothermal businesses to prominent auto and tech companies. If such a diverse group can agree on a breakthrough solution, political leaders on both sides of the aisle should be able to as well.

Movements for positive change often fail not just because of the resistance of entrenched interests but also because of divisions within the movement itself. It is time to overcome unnecessary divisions and work together in promoting an ambitious and politically viable climate solution. SOURCE

As Western premiers blow smoke on carbon tax, youth organize for climate justice

Image: Spence Mann
Image: Spence Mann

Justin Trudeau’s re-election has unleashed political outrage in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is talking about Alberta’s being “betrayed” while Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe sent a letter to Trudeau demanding the cancellaiton of the federal carbon tax, support for various pipelines, and a renegotiation of the formula for equalization payments.

I’ll withhold detailed comment on equalization payments, other than to say that for many years, Saskatchewan was a “have-not” province that relied heavily upon them. But let’s look more closely at Moe’s letter as it relates to the carbon tax and pipelines. Moe’s strident demands are likely based upon the election results in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where the Conservatives won 47 of 48 seats. On the other hand, parties supporting a carbon levy won almost two-thirds of the seats and popular vote across Canada.

It is significant, too, that the results in Alberta and Saskatchewan were not monolithic. In Alberta, 28 per cent of those casting ballots voted for the Liberals, NDP or Greens, and these parties all support a carbon tax. In Saskatchewan, 34 per cent of the electors voted for those three parties. If we had purely proportional representation rather than our flawed first-past-the-post electoral system, parties other than the Conservatives would have 10 seats in Alberta and five in Saskatchewan. So Kenney and Moe cannot say that they are speaking on behalf of all their constituents.

 Carbon tax haters are delayers and deniers

Kenney, Moe and others constantly repeat the mantra that the carbon tax will be a “job killer” and according to Doug Ford will lead to a recession. But these claims have been challenged. In a February, three independent experts, including the highly respected Don Drummond, concluded: “Economists are virtually unanimous in the view that carbon pricing reduces greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible cost to the economy.” British Columbia, Quebec and California are all using some form of carbon tax and their economies are humming along.

If Moe and others are opposed to a carbon tax, what is their suggestion, if any, for a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? There’s the rub. While Moe, Kenney, Ford and Andrew Scheer rail against the carbon tax, or demand that various pipelines be built, they usually avoid any mention of the climate crisis.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes the world’s best climate scientists, has been issuing reports for years. The IPCC reports of late are increasingly urgent in tone. The IPCC now says that global carbon dioxide emissions will have to fall by 45 per cent in 2030, and to reach a net of zero by 2050 to avoid catastrophic damage.

The Trudeau government — implausibly, many suggest — has promised that it is on course to meet those targets and that a carbon tax is the rightful centerpiece of that effort. Ottawa believes the tax will encourage a market shift away from fossil fuels toward renewable sources of energy.

The strategy of the tax’s opponents has shifted from denying the reality of climate change, which is no longer credible, to tactics of delay. During the election campaign, Conservatives said they would require large polluters to pay into a research and development fund for green technology. That plan appeared suspiciously akin to what was being proposed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the oil industry’s main lobby, which has a close relationship with Andrew Scheer. Tellingly, the proposal contained no associated targets or timetables for reducing emissions, and was described by one analyst as simply “a plan to expand fossil fuel production.”

Support on the street

While premiers Moe and Kenney attempt to delay, there is growing support on the street for climate action. On September 27, hundreds of thousands of people — 500,000 in Montreal alone — marched in climate strikes that took place in 200 Canadian cities and towns. Many of the organizers were youth, and they were participating in a global day of action to demand that our political leaders do more to confront the climate crisis. These youth organizers are looking to the future. Premiers Moe and Kenney are staring into the rear-view mirror. SOURCE

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CPToo late for a carbon tax, says former Ontario Liberal environment minister

OTTAWA — A former Ontario Liberal environment minister says Canada has waited too long for carbon taxes to be a real solution to the country’s emissions woes.

Glen Murray was the minister of environment in Ontario in 2017 when that province introduced its short-lived cap-and-trade carbon pricing system, which was killed off by the new Tory government just over a year later.

Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission says in a new report released today that carbon pricing is the most cost-effective way for Canada to hit its target of cutting emissions by nearly one-third over the next decade.

It suggests that quadrupling the price, from the planned $50 a tonne in 2022 to $210 in 2030, would be enough to meet that goal.

Murray, who is now working as a clean tech entrepreneur, says carbon taxes will take too long to work, given how quickly the planet is warming.

He also says Canadian politicians do not have enough willpower to set the price high enough to be truly effective, and that massive government intervention is the only way for Canada to do its part. SOURCE

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Carbon Pricing: Ontario Court Of Appeal Delivers Constitutional Endorsement

Image result for carbon pricing

The Ontario Court of Appeal has found that the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act is valid federal legislation. The Act implements national minimum pricing standards to reduce greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions. In a divided 4-1 opinion, the Ontario Court of Appeal concluded that the Act is constitutional and falls within the authority granted to Parliament to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Canada. The impact of this decision for the Atlantic provinces is discussed below.

Overview of the Act

The Act places a price on carbon pollution:

  • Part 1 of the Act establishes a charge on fuels producing GHGs.4 The charge applies to carbon-based fuels that are produced, delivered or used in a listed province, brought into a listed province from another place in Canada, or imported into Canada at a location in a listed province. The charge is presently $20 per tonne of CO2 emitted and will rise annually until 2022 when it reaches $50 per tonne.
  • Part 2 of the Act creates an output-based regulatory system for GHG emissions by industrial facilities.5 The system places annual limits on emissions, extends credits to facilities operating below those limits, and establishes charges for facilities whose emissions exceed the prescribed limits. While facilities subject to the system are exempt from the fuel charge, they are required to pay compensation for GHG emissions that exceed the annual limits. This compensation may take the form of credits earned or acquired by the facility, payments by the facility, or a combination of both.

The Act does not apply in all provinces. Rather, the Act operates as a “backstop” by extending into provinces without a sufficiently stringent system to reduce GHG emissions. This determination as to stringency is made by the federal Cabinet.6 Provinces may opt into the federal system voluntarily, adopt the national minimum standards as their own, or enact their own system that meets or exceeds the national standards for reducing GHG emissions. The fuel charge and trading system prescribed by the Act therefore only apply in provinces that do not satisfy the national standard for stringency.

Constitutional questions

Constitutional responsibility for the environment is not assigned exclusively to the federal government or the provinces.


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Election not public consultation, court tells Ford government in repeal of cap-and-trade

How to misrepresent good climate policy


Photo of windmills by Pricilla du Perez (Pexels.com)

If facts are the colourful pools of paint on an artist’s palette, then perhaps the truth is the whole painting.

Paint, in other words, does not make art without the artist. And a single fact does not make the truth without someone putting it in its proper context.

Unfortunately, politics and artistry don’t always mix, as we witnessed a couple weeks ago around one of the federal government’s most significant climate change policies. No, not the one you’re thinking of. This time, it was the clean fuel standard, a flexible regulation focused on making fuels cleaner.

First, some background: in July, the Conservative Party of Canada announced that, just like the price on pollution, Canada’s clean fuel standard would be met with a falling axe if the party were to form government in October. The policy, one of the two biggest in the federal government’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change alongside carbon pricing, plays a huge role in Canada’s efforts to combat climate change.

In short, scrapping it would mean an even bigger emissions gap relative to our climate target — nearly 40 per cent bigger, in fact.

The argument put forward to scrap it? In Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer’s words, because it’s “a secret fuel tax” that would increase the cost of gasoline by four cents. That number, according to the party, was informed by Clean Energy Canada’s 2017 report on the clean fuel standard, along with stakeholder interviews.

Clean Energy Canada is a think tank at Simon Fraser University focusing on the clean-energy transition and the right measures to accelerate it. Let’s delve into our report, which was created in partnership with Navius Research.

Here are the facts as they pertain to gasoline prices: the clean fuel standard (which was never secret and is literally not a tax) will not become a regulatory requirement for liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel until 2022. It will add a cent or two to the cost of a litre of gasoline in 2025. And it is not until 2030 that the policy could add about five cents to the price at the pump — the range Scheer is referring to. MORE

Cutting fossil fuels could save Canadians $24 billion a year by 2050

“We are still seeing efficiency standards for many buildings either weak or nonexistent.”


IEA executive director Fatih Birol speaks with attendees at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver on May 29, 2019 before he gave opening remarks to the gathering of 25 countries. Photo by Jennifer Gauthier

Canadians could save as much as $24 billion annually by 2050 by scaling back the use of fossil fuels to heat and cool their buildings and deploying a range of low-carbon and energy efficient technologies, according to a new joint study by a federal regulator and an international agency.

These tens of billions of dollars a year in savings would come on top of cutting energy demand by as much as 35 per cent and could be achieved through the use of existing technology, say the National Energy Board (NEB) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) in their new research.

But in order to deliver on “the energy savings potential and related emissions reduction,” Canada will need “additional policy signals” like carbon pricing and tightened energy performance requirements for buildings, they say.

That’s in part because abundant and cheaply priced natural gas in Canada poses a “particular challenge” to cutting carbon pollution and reducing energy demand in homes and offices.

“Policy support is needed to encourage shifts to efficient heat pumps in regions where natural gas and electricity prices mean there may be little economic incentive to change equipment,” the report states.

The joint report was published the same day the IEA’s executive director delivered a sobering message in Vancouver about the state of the world’s clean energy transition, in remarks to a gathering of ministers from 25 countries. MORE

Canada leads G7 in oil and gas subsidies: new report

 

In spite of Canadians’ objection to fossil fuel subsidies, Justin Trudeau always backs the fossil fuel corporations while, at the same time, pretending he has a robust environmental policy. His priorities are clear; but are they yours? Tell your MP you want environmental protection for your family and future generations.

New research shows vast majority of Canadians support phaseout of government support for fossil fuel companies

Justin Trudeau G7
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau flanked by Donald Tusk, president of the European Council and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during 2017 G7 summit in Taormina, Italy. Photo: European Council President via Flickr

Canada provides more government support for oil and gas companies than any other G7 nation and is among the least transparent about fossil fuel subsidies, a new report reveals.

“Fossil fuel subsidies undermine carbon pricing, work against the achievement of Canada’s climate targets, encourage more fossil fuel exploration and production, and allocate scarce public resources away from other priorities like health care, education and renewable energy,” says the report, which ranks the progress of G7 countries in meeting their pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.

Accompanied by a new Ekos poll, the research found a large majority of Canadians are strongly opposed to using public money to support oil and gas companies and want to see billions of dollars a year in subsidies phased out.

The exception was Alberta — the heart of Canada’s oil and gas industry — where people polled were concerned about the economic impacts of removing government support for oil and gas corporations.

Even so, 48 per cent of Albertans polled disagreed with public subsidies for oil and gas companiesMORE

Oilsands CO2 emissions may be far higher than companies report, scientists say

 

The neoliberal bargain that underpinned Canada’s ‘climate policy’–allow tar sand to expand and ship the world’s dirtiest oil to market overseas through the TransMountain pipeline–has now been shot out of the water. Our climate emissions are now nowhere near adequate to meet the IPCC report requirement of keeping emission below 1.5 degrees C to prevent global ecocide. Write to your MP and demand action!

Air samples taken over northern Alberta operations suggest previous figures could be way off


Operations in Alberta’s oilsands may be emitting significantly more carbon dioxide than previously calculated, according newly published research from federal scientists. (Getty Images)

A number of major oilsands operations in northern Alberta seem to be emitting significantly more carbon pollution than companies have been reporting, newly published research from federal scientists suggests, which could have profound consequences for government climate-change strategies.

The researchers, mainly from Environment Canada, calculated emissions rates for four major oilsands surface mining operations using air samples collected in 2013 on 17 airplane flights over the area.

In results published today in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists say the air samples from just those surface mining operations suggest their carbon dioxide emissions are 64 per cent higher, on average, than what the companies themselves report to the federal government using the standard United Nations reporting framework for greenhouse gases.

It means that Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions would be around 2.3 per cent higher than previously thought. And if research eventually shows that other oilsands sites are subject to similar underreporting issues, Canada’s overall greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as six per cent more than thought — throwing a wrench into the calculations that underpin government emissions strategies.

Accurate estimates of anthropogenic or human-generated greenhouse gases “inform national and international climate policies,” the researchers write. “Such anthropogenic GHG emission data ultimately underpin carbon pricing and trading policies.” MORE

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10 Myths about Carbon Pricing in Canada


I am excited to announce our newest report, 10 Myths about Carbon Pricing in Canada.

Over the last 10 years, Canada has made tremendous strides in climate policy. But continued progress is not guaranteed.

In 2019, the debate is heating up and its more important than ever that we have honest, evidence-based conversations about our options to deal with climate change.

Our report today aims to improve the quality of these conversations by debunking 10 common myths about carbon pricing that we hear from Canadians—be it at the dinner table, on social media, and even on TV.

I invite you to check out the report or our infographic, then use it as a resource and share it. We have a video to help with that. And we hope that it will lead to a better debate—for you, your province and the country as whole.

READ THE INTERACTIVE ONLINE VERSION

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

When we debate carbon pricing, can we at least stick to the facts?

The Syncrude oil sands extraction facility is reflected in a tailings pond near the city of Fort McMurray, Alta., on June 1, 2014. Economists are virtually unanimous in the view that carbon pricing reduces greenhouse-gas emissions at the lowest possible cost to the economy. JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

As a group of economists, we still believe that facts should matter when it comes to making important policy decisions. Unfortunately, not everyone involved in the Canadian climate policy debate appears to agree. Myths and rhetoric are pushing the real facts to the sidelines. The result is a mix of confusion and polarization that is poisoning our public debate, and we are losing patience.

As a case in point, Ontario Premier Doug Ford recently claimed that carbon pricing will be a “total economic disaster” for the country and cause a “carbon-tax recession.” Despite the fact that this claim strongly contradicts almost all of the available empirical evidence on carbon pricing, we’re hearing it repeated more often.

So, let’s start with this fact: Economists are virtually unanimous in the view that carbon pricing reduces greenhouse-gas emissions at the lowest possible cost to the economy. Other policy approaches – such as intrusive and prescriptive regulations, or generous production or consumption subsidies – will cost the economy far more to achieve the same outcome.

In fact, carbon pricing appears to have negligible impacts on economic growth when it is well-designed. British Columbia has had carbon pricing since 2008, and its economy is one of the strongest in Canada. Quebec has had carbon pricing since 2013, and it is now experiencing an economic renaissance. Carbon pricing isn’t causing the growth in either case, but neither is it preventing it. No “economic disaster” in these provinces. Ditto for California, the United Kingdom and, for that matter, Ontario’s carbon-pricing system that lasted from 2015 until its repeal last year. MORE