Pembina Institute: The oilsands in a carbon-constrained Canada

The collision course between overall emissions and national climate commitments

The oil and gas industry has made big contributions to Canadian society: providing jobs, technology and research excellence, while warming homes, fuelling cars and powering our electricity grids. Today, the oil and gas sector is facing unprecedented pressures. While dramatic fluctuations in the price of energy commodities are not new, increasing automation, adoption of new disruptive technologies, shifting market demands, and climate commitments are reshaping the future of this sector. Business-as-usual no longer applies — significant changes are necessary.

In a continuing effort to depolarize the conversation, this report seeks to help establish a basic, commonly agreed-upon set of facts about Alberta’s oilsands, their emissions performance and trajectories, and what Canada’s commitment to achieve deep decarbonization will mean for the sector.

Download the full report, or read the Executive Summary below.

Executive summary

Alberta’s oilsands are at a crossroads.

The oil and gas industry has made big contributions to Canadian society: providing jobs, technology and research excellence, while warming homes, fuelling cars and powering our electricity grids. Today, the oil and gas sector is facing unprecedented pressures. While dramatic fluctuations in the price of energy commodities are not new, increasing automation, adoption of new disruptive technologies, shifting market demands, and climate commitments are reshaping the future of this sector. Business-as-usual no longer applies — significant changes are necessary.

In a continuing effort to depolarize the conversation, this report seeks to help establish a basic, commonly agreed-upon set of facts about Alberta’s oilsands, their emissions performance and trajectories, and what Canada’s commitment to achieve deep decarbonization will mean for the sector.

Key points:

  • Carbon emissions from the oilsands sector are the fastest-growing source of emissions in Canada. This continuing upward trajectory not only reduces the country’s ability to meet its 2030 reduction commitments, but is on a clear collision course with Canada’s plan to become carbon-neutral by 2050. (Figure 1.)
Graph: Share of the oilsands emissions in national carbon budget to meet Canada’s 2030 targetFigure 1. Share of the oilsands emissions in national carbon budget to meet Canada’s 2030 target

  • Oilsands products are not homogeneous and there is a wide range in performance when it comes to carbon emissions intensity. As a result of variations in bitumen quality and extraction technologies, the range between the highest and lowest upstream emissions intensity per barrel is nearly threefold.
  • The oilsands industry has worked toward decreasing the emissions intensity of its products in the past decades. Continuous improvements have reduced the carbon intensity of specific oilsands products, ranging from a 4% to 21% reduction since 2009.
  • Despite these improvements in carbon intensity, absolute carbon emissions from the oilsands continue to increase overall, as growth in production outpaces gains from reductions in per-barrel intensity.
  • Studies reviewed for this report consistently find oilsands products to be more carbon intensive than lighter, conventional oil sources. Recognizing limitations of emissions intensity research and the challenge of comparing studies, the best estimate currently available suggests a barrel of oil produced in Canada is associated on average with 70% more GHG emissions than the average crude produced globally.
  • Acknowledging oil demand will not disappear overnight, most outlooks predict demand will plateau or decline within the next decade. Subsequent global shifts toward lower-intensity energy options are likely to put more carbon-intense crudes — such as the bulk of oilsands products — at risk over the next decade.
  • The rapid development and deployment of breakthrough technologies — as opposed to incremental improvements — is needed for the sector to decrease its absolute carbon emissions in line with our climate commitments, and to remain competitive as global energy systems change.

Recognizing the improvements that the oilsands industry has made to date and the commitments leading companies have announced to achieve ambitious targets in the future, there is still a need for the sector to embrace its responsibility to reduce overall carbon emissions in accordance with Canada’s 2030 and 2050 targets.

The Pembina Institute calls for both the Alberta and federal government to recognize the willingness of leading companies to adopt aggressive decarbonization targets, as well as mounting investor pressure to decarbonize the sector, and implement policies that will drive toward carbon-neutral — or even carbon-negative — oilsands production.

It’s time to have a national conversation about how to reconcile oilsands emissions with Canada’s goal to decarbonize its economy by 2050. The intention of this report, carefully and explicitly supported by available evidence and research, is to further fact-based dialogue, as we all embark on this tough, but necessary Canadian conversation.

Recommendations to improve oilsands climate performance

1. Establish strong regulations to decarbonize the industry

Intentional effort is required to encourage a shift toward low- and zero-carbon production, by creating strong incentives for the development and deployment of breakthrough innovation. Recognizing the willingness of leading companies to adopt aggressive decarbonization targets, as well as mounting investor pressure to decarbonize the sector, governments need to implement policies that will drive carbon-neutral — or even carbon-negative — oilsands production.

2. Define and enforce sector emissions targets for 2030 and 2050, with five-year increments

Meeting our 2030 and 2050 climate targets will require all sectors of our economy — and all Canadians — to do their fair share to contribute to the global effort of limiting the average temperature increase to 1.5°C. Decreasing GHG emissions reduction targets need to be set for the oil and gas sector, in five-year increments that would allow Canada to meet its 2030 national objective and its pledge to become a net-zero carbon emitter by 2050.

3. Support an innovation ecosystem to deliver breakthrough technologies

A robust ecosystem to support innovation, research and development, needs to be funded and fostered so it can deploy solutions aimed at delivering breakthrough reductions — beyond incremental improvements — in emissions of current oilsands projects, as well as non-combustion uses of Alberta’s oil and gas resources.

4. Improve emissions monitoring and reporting

Existing measurement, monitoring and reporting processes for oilsands emissions must be reviewed, strengthened and standardized in order to produce coherent data and enhance the transparency of the sector. As well, further analysis looking at existing and upcoming technology pathways is required to better situate oilsands products’ carbon intensity on the global supply curve.

5. Appoint credible and effective energy regulators

Effective energy regulators are needed both provincially and federally. They must be transparent and independent, with the ability to incorporate robust environmental and climate considerations into their decision-making, while having both the mandate to enforce regulations and the capacity to follow through on that enforcement. SOURCE

Tribunal orders Canada to compensate parents who lost children in care

Kenneth Jackson
APTN News
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered Canada Monday to pay the estates of children who died in the on-reserve child welfare system which federal lawyers had argued didn’t qualify for compensation.

This also includes the estates of children that died waiting for medical services that should have been covered under Jordan’s Principle.

Canada had argued in part that the estates of children couldn’t face discrimination, so therefore didn’t qualify for compensation.

Monday’s ruling comes after the tribunal first ordered Canada on Sept. 6 to compensate First Nation children who were removed from their homes and put in a purposely underfunded child welfare system between 2006 to present day. It awarded $40,000 each, the maximum the tribunal is allowed.

The tribunal also ordered Canada on Monday to compensate children who went into care prior to Jan. 1, 2006 but remained in care as of that date, which Canada was also opposing.

“This ruling is such good news for First Nations children and families and comes at a time when the world needs to know justice can pierce through the most difficult of times,” said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society that first filed the human rights complaint in Feb. 2007, along with the Assembly of First Nations.

The tribunal found Canada guilty Jan. 26, 2016 and since then has faced nine non-compliance orders.

“I am so grateful that children in care as of January 1, 2006 who suffered the discrimination and their caregivers will be compensated along with the estates of children and caregivers who died before they could receive the compensation that could have offered small measure of justice for them,” said Blackstock.

Since December Canada and Blackstock, along with the AFN, have been in talks to develop a compensation framework on how Canada would comply with the compensation order.

But federal lawyers argued only children that died after Oct. 24, 2014 were entitled for compensation, which is when final arguments were made at tribunal over the complaint. Canada was opposing compensation for the estates of children prior to that date.

Canada did win one challenge Monday, which will see children receive their compensation at the age of majority of their province or territory, which in this case only includes Yukon.

Cindy Blackstock

Breaking GOOD news! The Tribunal has just ruled in favour of First Nations children and caregivers on key issues regarding compensation for Canada’s discrimination. Read the order below- reasons to follow.

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Canada has filed several appeals throughout this fight and most recently last fall in Federal Court. It’s judicial order to quash the compensation is still outstanding.

APTN News asked Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller if Canada intends to drop the judicial review but his office didn’t directly address the matter.

“Our focus remains on finding an equitable, fair and comprehensive settlement on compensation that will ensure long-term benefits for those individuals harmed by past government policies and their families, and support community healing,” said spokesperson Vanessa Adams in a statement.

“While we maintain that there are real and substantial issues with the CHRT’s order as written, we engaged with the parties in the spirit of collaboration and openness, and as ordered by the CHRT. Working together, our Government, the First Nations Caring Society, and the Assembly of First Nations have achieved important progress, and we remain fully committed to moving forward on compensation in a respectful way.”

Blackstock said she hoped the government accepts the tribunal’s ruling.

“I plead with the Government of Canada to not appeal this decision at a time when First Nations children and families and their allies need good news and we are all reminded of the sacredness of life and family,” said Blackstock.

Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle named after Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations boy from Norway House Cree Nation who died waiting for medical care while the federal and provincial governments argued over who should pay for it.

The tribunal also ruled in January 2016 Canada was responsible for Jordan’s Principle and needed to properly fund it. SOURCE

Canada does not deserve seat at UN Security Council: Opinion

UN Security Council

A gate on the Morice River Forest Service Rd is dismantled during RCMP operations. Photo: Unist’ot’en Village/Twitter.

Pam Palmater
Special to APTN NewsReconciliation is dead. It died when the RCMP invaded Wet’suwet’en territory with heavy machinery, helicopters, weapons and police dogs to forcibly remove Wet’suwet’en peoples and supporters from their homes on their own lands.In quite literal terms, the RCMP destroyed the “reconciliation” sign posted on the access point to the territory, to make way for pipeline workers to force a pipeline on Wet’suwet’en Yintah (lands) without consent from hereditary chiefs.While they were at it, Coastal Gaslink pipeline workers removed the red dresses memorializing the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who have been abused, exploited, disappeared and murdered – some at the hands of those who work in man camps.

In reaction to this violation of Indigenous land rights and the aggressive invasion of Wet’suwet’en lands by the RCMP, grassroots Indigenous peoples and Canadian allies have engaged in protests, rallies, marches and blockades all over Turtle Island.

UN Security Council

300 people blocked the intersection at Cambie and Hastings in Vancouver in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. Photo: Simon Charland/APTN

Meanwhile, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not even in Canada. He is travelling the world campaigning for a seat on the United Nations (UN) Security Council.

Canada is a state perpetrator of genocide against Indigenous women and girls. The national inquiry found that all levels of government – federal, provincial, territorial and municipal – have engaged in historic and ongoing genocide; a form of gendered colonization which targets Indigenous women and girls for violence and denies them basic human rights protections. This genocide includes the theft of Indigenous lands and resources and the criminalization of Indigenous peoples who peacefully defend their lands and peoples from the violence, especially from the extractive industry.

The UN Security Council should not welcome a state perpetrator of genocide that has failed to accept responsibility for the genocide and failed to act urgently to end it. Similarly, member states of the UN should recall that Canada was one of only four states that fought against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which protects the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination, control over their traditional lands and resources and protections from forced removal from their lands by the state. While Canada has reversed its position on UNDRIP and claims to now support it unconditionally, it has failed to implement it into domestic law (with the exception of the Province of British Columbia).

The UN Security Council’s mandate is to maintain international peace and security. They are responsible to identify threats to peace or acts of aggression and have the authority to impose sanctions or authorize intervention. The Council has 15 members, five are permanent (China, Russia, France, United Kingdom and the United States) and ten are non-permanent and replaced on a rotating basis. Canada is vying for one of five seats that will be elected in June alongside other countries like Norway and Ireland. Canada lost its seat under the former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. To this end, Trudeau is campaigning on the African continent and will soon be headed to the Caribbean and eventually Germany to make his case.

UN Security Council

A truck sits by the tracks near the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Photo courtesy: Annette Francis

Yet, it is hard to contemplate how the member states of the UN could vote for Canada given its record of human rights abuses and genocide of Indigenous peoples. Keep in mind that both the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS) have shared their grave concerns about the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls finding of ongoing genocide in Canada. The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) has also asked Canada to urgently withdraw the RCMP and weapons from Wet’suwet’en territory and to halt any major development projects on Indigenous territories unless they have consent.

The UN member states should also consider that Canada has continuously failed to act on the numerous recommendations from various UN human rights treaty bodies pleading with Canada to end its grave human rights violations against Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous women. Whether it is the UNCERD, UN Human Rights Council, UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Canada consistently fails to remedy these serious human rights breaches.

While there will be many other political considerations that go into each UN member state’s decision as to whether to support Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, Canada’s record of ongoing genocide and human rights abuses against Indigenous peoples, and its recent armed invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory should give them pause. Canada has long pointed fingers around the world, criticizing human rights breaches, yet it has failed to address its own – and it’s killing our people.

UN Security Council

Red dresses hang at the 27 km marker along the Morice Forest Service Rd. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN

Canada does not deserve a seat at the UN Security Council unless and until they address peace and security in their own country. Indigenous women and girls continue to disappear and be murdered, Indigenous peoples are grossly overincarcerated, and our children are stolen into the foster care system at rates higher than during residential schools.

Our lands and waters are being destroyed by massive development and extractive projects without regard for the cost to the planet or human lives. Canada’s continued acts of genocide and ecocide will eventually impact other states as climate change cannot be contained within artificial political borders. The planet is in crisis and the UN Security Council will have to face ever growing threats to peace and security worldwide. The last thing they need is to be guided by states that don’t address their own human rights, peace and security issues.

Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw citizen and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick. She has been a practicing lawyer for 20 years and currently holds the position of Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. SOURCE