Coal and bitumen: Why the Norwegian pension fund is ditching the oilsands

KLP executive explains decision to sell $77M in shares of oilsands companies


KLP, Norway’s largest pension fund, will no longer invest in companies deriving their income from oilsands. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Norway’s largest pension fund is no stranger to Alberta’s oilsands, having invested in several different oil producers over the last decade including Canadian and Norwegian-based companies. Now, those investments toward ramping up production from the bitumen-rich areas of northern Alberta have come to an end.

KLP, which has assets of about $94 billion, has sold its stocks in oilsands companies.

In its evaluation of the oilsands, the pension fund came to the conclusion that the oil production in the Fort McMurray region was akin to the coal industry in its harmful impacts to the environment.

“Both are very high in emissions in producing the energy or fuel and we’ve decided to treat them similarly,” said Jeanett Bergan, KLP’s head of responsible investment during a phone interview with CBC News from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“We are seeing a lot of signs in society that say ‘This is not what the future will look like.'”

The pension fund will no longer invest in any company with more than five per cent of its revenue derived from the oilsands or coal sectors. Previously, KLP had a 30 per cent threshold for oilsands revenue.

The decision affects five companies: Russia’s Tatneft PAO and Canada’s Cenovus Energy, Suncor Energy, Husky Energy and Imperial Oil. Recently, KLP sold $77 million in shares of those companies.

The oilsands sector is facing increasing scrutiny over its environmental performance because of climate change concerns. The industry has said it is making strides.

With the latest advances in technology and techniques, some oilsands companies, like Suncor, say emissions per barrel of oil produced from certain facilities is on par with the average barrel from the U.S.

Cenovus has said it reduced its greenhouse gas intensity by one-third over the last decade.

Since 2012, Canadian Natural Resources, another oilsands producer, reports it has cut the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of oil it produces, company-wide, by 29 per cent. It’s also reduced its methane emissions by 78 per cent during that time.

The advances in technology and environmental performance aren’t lost on KLP. Still, it’s not enough.


A heavy hauler mining truck dumps a load of bitumen ore at the Fort Hills, Alta., oilsands facility. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

“Of course, there are a lot of efforts in doing things better all the time,” said Bergan. “At some point, you just have to take one more step and say ‘This is not part of the future. This is not part of the solution.'” MORE

Can Mayors Save the World From Climate Change?

Australia’s northern coast is a case study on the impacts of a warming planet. Small-town leaders there are struggling with constituents who doubt reality.


Bucasia Beach in Mackay, Australia, is a mining and agricultural hub. The coastal town offers a view of the rapid effects of climate change.CreditMatthew Abbott for The New York Times

BUCASIA BEACH, Australia — Mayor Greg Williamson crunched through the dead branches and kicked the sand. His government had planted trees near the shore to protect this northern Australian beach community from the effects of climate change, but someone had cut them down, apparently for a better view.

“It looks to me like they started at the beach and worked their way back,” he said, pointing to the 18 felled trees. “Bloody fools — look, you can still see the saw marks.”

“What they don’t realize,” he added, “is that if these dunes aren’t here, they’re not going to have a house or a view.”

When international leaders met last month at the United Nations to discuss climate change, and when millions of young protesters took to the streets, the focus was on sweeping global action. But for much of the world, the response to climate change looks more like the parochial struggles of Mayor Williamson: small-town leaders laboring to persuade a skeptical public about complex science and expensive decisions.

In few places is the challenge of adapting to climate change more immediate than in Australia, where 80 percent of the population lives within a few dozen miles of a coastline susceptible to rising seas and more punishing storms, and where the arid interior bakes under record temperatures.

CreditMatthew Abbott for The New York Times

A decade ago, the country was at the forefront of adaptation expertise, creating a national research center to collect and share knowledge among academics and officials. But over time, the federal government lost interest, and in 2018 the facility’s funding fell to zero.

The conservative government has mostly dismissed calls for action on climate change, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently arguing that young activists like Greta Thunberg are causing “needless anxiety.” It’s a reversal that resembles what is happening in the United States, where the Trump White House has rejected established climate science, and cities like Miami have paid for their own coastal protection.

But the absence of national leadership does not change reality. It just puts more pressure on mayors and councils, including those in less populated areas, forcing them to become the climate infantry — the grunts who push through solutions on their own.

In Australia, they are the ones grappling with roads falling into the sea, with disputes over home insurance as costs rise, and with who will pay for preventive measures like taller barriers at marinas. They are also managing little-noticed budget ramifications, like the hiring of flooding consultants and the quicker depreciation in value of fleets of cars battered by increased salt and sand.

And that is just along the coast. Farther inland, local governments are trying to become experts in drought-monitoring technology, while areas that had never thought much about fire — even in rain forests — are suddenly examining worst-case scenarios.

Houses along Eimeo Beach in Mackay.
CreditMatthew Abbott for The New York Times

Among mayors, there is anger about the burden, said Dorean Erhart, who runs a state-level adaptation program. The group is helping Mackay, the sprawling area of 180,000 people and 32 beaches that Mayor Williamson leads, and other regional councils in the state of Queensland.

“They understand this is something they are going to have to deal with,” Ms. Erhart said. “It’s not going away, and it involves a thousand small decisions.”

For the regional council in Mackay, the challenge is especially palpable because the causes and effects of a warming planet stand side by side. MORE

Forestry sector scrambles to recruit tree planters to sow millions – perhaps billions – more seedlings

B.C. silviculture companies are struggling to find up to 1,000 more tree planters


Veteran tree planter Jeff Andrews works his way across a B.C. mountainside. Facing a multimillion-seedling spike in the number of trees that need to be planted, B.C. is need of hundreds more tree planters for the 2020 season. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

It takes the stamina of an athlete to run up the side of a steep mountain the way Lann Dickson does.

“Nothing about it is easy,” said Dickson.

“A lot of people quit in the first week or two, it definitely breaks a lot of people.”

The veteran tree planter zig-zags across the mountainside in Fraser Canyon near Boston Bar, B.C., dodging stumps and branches, with 300 seedlings tucked into pouches strapped around his waist. Without losing a beat, Dickson pierces the ground with his shovel and slings a seedling into the ground. Then he’s off to the next spot he eyes several metres away.

Dickson has been tree planting in B.C. for 24 years, and skilled workers like him are in extremely high demand right now.

And that’s before the ambitious campaign promises by federal parties to plant billions more trees across Canada are even factored in.

Experienced tree planters like Lann Dickson are in high demand, because they know how to move quickly and safely across tricky terrain, and have the skills to sow hundreds of trees a day. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

B.C. alone needs to plant an estimated 48 million more trees in 2020 than it did last year in an effort to restore massive areas burned in the province after two record-breaking wildfires, and to promote carbon sequestration.

The Western Forestry Contractors’ Association estimates the increase may be the largest leap in planting volume in the industry’s 50-year history, going from 270 million seedlings this year to as many as 318 million seedlings next year.


In addition to normal projects to reforest trees harvested for logging, B.C. is planning to plant millions more trees next year in areas burned by wildfire. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Labour shortage

The industry estimates it employs roughly 4,500 workers. It will require 500 to 1,000 more planters to sow all those extra seedlings next year.

“It’s going to be a challenge for sure, [with] a lot more trees coming to market this year than past years,” said Timo Scheiber, CEO of Brinkman Reforestation.

Timo Scheiber, CEO of Brinkman Reforestation, says he believes it’s a great time to be a tree planter, as there is a huge need to reforest areas harvested and burned down by wildfires. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Adding to that extra demand, the search for reliable and experienced planters could skyrocket after a recent landmark study by Swiss researchers found that tree planting could play a huge role in combating climate change. Federal leaders on the campaign trail jumped on the study, and two parties have promised to plant billions of trees if elected.

The Liberals have pledged to plant 2 billion more trees over the next decade across the country to get Canada closer to carbon neutrality.

The Greens have an even more ambitious goal — 10 billion trees over the next three decades. MORE

BC Wastes $1 Billion A Year In Fossil Fuel Subsidies. The Madness Continues: Fossil Fuel Subsidies Equal $1,650 Per Canadian

The Madness Continues: Fossil Fuel Subsidies Equal $1,650 Per Canadian, Below2C

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vow to phase out ‘inefficient’ subsidies for coal, oil and gas still hasn’t happened — despite the escalating costs of the climate emergency.

According to a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, Canada subsidized the fossil fuel industry to the tune of almost $60 billion in 2015 — approximately $1,650 per Canadian.

Yet subsidizing one of the world’s wealthiest industries is folly. Such subsidies not only hurt Canadian taxpayers and the economy — they also exacerbate the climate emergency.

Indeed, the G20 countries have already agreed that subsidizing fossil fuels is irrational in a warming world — and have called for action to eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that distort markets.

The problem is that subsidies encourage the production and wasteful consumption of fossil fuels all while impeding the shift to cleaner renewables.

3 Ways Canada Subsidizes Fossil Fuels

For these reasons, during the last election campaign Justin Trudeau sensibly committed to “phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

The problem is that government has not yet delivered on this promise.

A new 2019 report by Canada’s Auditor General reveals government’s review of such subsidies is “incomplete and not rigorous,” is “not based on all relevant and reliable information” and “did not consider economic, social and environmental sustainability over the long term.”

Canada continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industry in myriad ways. First, it provides tax breaks under the federal Income Tax Act. For example, in 2015 the federal government introduced a new accelerated depreciation rate for equipment used in LNG facilities, which was a change proposed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Second, government provides funding to the fossil fuel industry at favourable rates through direct financing and loan guarantees. A recent example is Export Development Canada’s administration of a nearly $5 billion loan to support the government’s controversial purchase and operation of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Ottawa has no plan to recoup that principal cost from industry — and is also subsidizing half the interest expense with taxpayer dollars.

Third, Canada provides direct funding to the fossil fuel industry through research, development and other services provided by federal agencies.

For example, the federal government is paying $1.5 billion for the Oceans Protection Plan, an initiative to safeguard bitumen transport through the Port of Vancouver. This plan was necessitated by new oil tanker traffic — and should be paid for by oil shippers.

The Ultimate Subsidy – Buying a Pipeline

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Victoria in April of 2018 to reiterate the federal government’s support for the Trans Mountain pipeline and commitment to the Oceans Protection Plan.

Yet now, taxpayers will pay up to $6 billion for the plan over the next 20 years.

The Social Costs of Fossil Fuels

The Madness Continues: Fossil Fuel Subsidies Equal $1,650 Per Canadian, Below2CCredit: Collection of images from CC sources, Below2°C.

Finally, there is the $60 billion subsidy that the IMF focused on — the “social costs” of carbon that governments pay, instead of fuel producers.

Lacking adequate carbon taxes, governments continue to pick up the tab for the impacts of climate change — for example, repairing damage from extreme weather events, building new levees, sea walls and storm sewers and paying for wildfire control and increased health costs.

Massive Upside of Eliminating Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Fortunately, implementing carbon taxes and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies will pay off in the long run.

The IMF estimates that elimination of global fossil fuel subsidies would reduce CO2 emissions by 28 per cent and reduce premature air pollution deaths by 46 per cent.

Equally important, the IMF concluded that elimination of subsidies would actually result in a net economic gain. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies will be a win for both the environment and for the economy.

In sum, Canada needs to implement robust carbon taxes to pay for the massive climate change costs that society now confronts.

Just as important, Canada must finally follow through on its specific promise to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

After all, claiming to fight climate change while subsidizing fossil fuels is as crazy as brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. It may make you feel virtuous, but it isn’t going to work. SOURCE

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More than half a million Canadians could work in clean tech by 2030: report

Montrealers of all ages marching in the climate change strike in downtown Montreal on Sept. 27, 2019.
Montrealers of all ages marching in the climate change strike in downtown Montreal on Sept. 27, 2019. Tim Sargeant / Global News

Half a million Canadians will likely be employed in the clean energy sector by 2030, a new report suggests.

Clean Energy Canada, a non-partisan clean technology research group based at Simon Fraser University in B.C., issued the study, titled The Fast Lane, which follows up on a report released earlier this year tracking the historic growth of the industry and the nearly 300,000 people it employs in Canada.

In its new report, the group forecasts the Canadian clean tech industry will grow four times faster than the industrial average over the next 20 years and create a total of 160,000 new jobs, bringing the number of Canadians employed in clean tech to 559,400.

In net terms, that would be an increase of 110,000 jobs, since the report also predicts roughly 50,000 fossil fuel jobs will be lost in the next 10 years as that industry contracts at a rate of roughly 0.5 per cent each year and shifts towards automation.

That’s compared to what the group projects as growth of 3.5 per cent each year in the clean tech sector.

“The world is transitioning to clean energy with or without Canada, and we still can be an energy leader in the decades ahead,” said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada. MORE

 

IMF climate report calls for massive carbon tax in just 10 years to limit global warming

Image result for global climate tax

A global agreement to implement a substantial carbon tax would be the most efficient way of tackling climate change, according to a new study by the International Monetary Fund, the Washington Post reports. An international tax of $75 per ton by the year 2030 could limit warming to 2C, the IMF concludes, although its deputy director of fiscal affairs Paolo Mauro describes this as a “quantum leap” from today’s average of $2 per ton. Bloomberg describes the IMF’s reference to a climate “crisis” as its “most emphatic statement on climate change yet”. It says that according to the fund’s analysis, the Paris pledges that have been made so far by nations “fall well short” of their goal of limiting temperature rise. While Time reports comments from Mauro that the organisation is “not religious about any particular type of measure”, it also notes their conclusion that a carbon tax is the “single, most powerful and efficient tool” to drive a reduction in emissions. The magazine also mentions some of the critiques levelled at carbon taxes as well as the solutions suggested by the IMF, such as tax breaks so that poor people are not hit hardest.

A piece in the Guardian reports comments by Australian treasurer and deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg in which he rejects the IMF’s warning that Australia will fail to meet its Paris target even with a carbon price of US$75 a ton. According to the Australian Financial Review, the IMF says the nation’s economy is still too heavily reliant on coal power for even such a dramatic tax to have the desired effect. MORE

Doug Ford’s government has made ‘next to no progress’ on plan to cut carbon emissions: report

Environmental Defence examines Ontario’s promised moves to reduce greenhouse gases


Ontario is ‘not on track’ to achieve its own targets for reducing carbon emissions, according to a new report from Environmental Defence. The report points to decisions by the government of Premier Doug Ford that have slowed the pace of electric vehicle sales and have delayed a push for more renewable content in fuel. (CBC)

Premier Doug Ford’s government has done almost nothing on the bulk of the promises in the greenhouse-gas reduction plan Ontario introduced last November, according to a new report by an environmental watchdog group.

The report published Thursday by Environmental Defence examines the seven key actions Ontario pledged to cut carbon emissions in the province, and finds that little or no progress has been made on all but one.

The actions were laid out in the “Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations,” the plan unveiled after the Progressive Conservatives scrapped the Wynne Liberal government’s cap-and-trade program.

“The government has acknowledged that the climate crisis is real, human-caused, and must be addressed,” said Environmental Defence in its report. “Ontario’s failure to act is a broken promise.”

Environment Minister Jeff Yurek was unavailable for an interview Wednesday.


Environment Minister Jeff Yurek’s office has told CBC the province ‘has already made significant progress toward further consultation and implementation’ on 19 commitments in its environmental plan. (CBC)

CBC News requested information about the government’s actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yurek’s press secretary, Andrew Buttigieg, said in a statement the government “has already made significant progress toward further consultation and implementation” on 19 commitments in its environmental plan.

However, few of those commitments have anything to do with reducing emissions. They include “appointed a special adviser for Ontario Parks” and “released a discussion paper on reducing plastic litter and waste.”

The Environmental Defence report says the government is already “not on track” to achieve its own emission reduction targets, in part because of decisions that have slowed the pace of electric vehicle sales and delayed a push for more renewable content in fuel.

“So far, we haven’t seen any meaningful steps to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change in Ontario,” said Sarah Buchanan, clean economy program manager for Environmental Defence.

“We’re quite concerned that Ontario isn’t taking its obligations seriously and is breaking its promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without a price on carbon,” Buchanan said in an interview.

The signature piece of the government’s plan — an emission performance standard for large industrial polluters — will actually increase greenhouse gas emissions rather than decrease them, according to the report.

It says the system is too lenient and offers too many exemptions to big polluters, and there’s no evidence to support the government’s forecast that the standard will contribute 15 per cent of the province’s overall target for cutting greenhouse gases.

MORE

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