Ahead of COP26, Canada’s oil trade fears new local weather minister

The man spearheading Canada’s environmental coverage is a former Greenpeace activist who as soon as scaled Toronto’s tallest constructing to hold a banner denouncing his nation and then-US President George W Bush as “climate criminals” – and his appointment is sparking hope from some environmentalists and fear within the oil patch days earlier than the United Nations talks on world warming.

Steven Guilbeault was named the atmosphere minister of Canada, home to the world’s third-largest oil reserves, this week.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has branded his Liberal authorities as local weather champions. But he has presided over the very best rise in climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions amongst G7 nations over the previous 5 years, in line with a research from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) revealed in June.

With environmentalists demanding concrete emissions reductions earlier than COP26 negotiations in Glasgow beginning on Sunday, lawmakers in Alberta, the heartland of Canada’s oil trade, are nervous.

“It’s a cause for concern,” Alberta’s Energy Minister Sonya Savage informed Al Jazeera, talking of Guilbeault’s appointment.

“He has opposed every pipeline in Canada, every oil sands project, everything we need to do in Alberta to get our product to market,” she stated. “We are seeing a global crisis where prices are skyrocketing for oil and gas and a lot of that is because of green agendas.”

Top oil exporter to US

Producing greater than 5 million barrels of crude per day, Canada is the largest overseas oil exporter to the US, in line with authorities knowledge. About 80 p.c of that crude comes from Alberta, generally dubbed “Canada’s Texas” attributable to its conservative political tradition.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) stated this week that present world commitments to chop greenhouse gasoline emissions imply the planet is on monitor for a “catastrophic” common 2.7-degree Celsius (4.9F) temperature rise this century.

This means nations, notably within the world south, will probably be in search of far sharper emissions targets and reductions from rich nations when COP26 negotiations start.

Canada’s authorities is aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050, though analysts are doubtful about how that aim could be met on present trajectories.

“Canada has a long history of making big promises and not delivering,” Keith Stewart, a local weather campaigner with Greenpeace and longtime pal of the brand new atmosphere minister, informed Al Jazeera.

“I know from my conversations with Guilbeault he is keen on changing that … He will be under relentless pressure from the oil lobby in this country and we hope he can stand up to the heat.”

The oil and gasoline sector alone will trigger Canada to exceed its earlier local weather goal, set as a part of the Paris Agreement, to scale back emissions by at the very least 40 p.c under 2005 ranges within the subsequent 9 years, the CCPA reported.

Canadian oil is a few of the world’s worst on the subject of greenhouse gasoline emissions, in line with a 2018 research from Stanford University researchers.

They in contrast the local weather results of oil from completely different nations and located that Canadian oil had the world’s fourth-highest emissions depth, about 70 p.c greater than the worldwide common.

Minister Savage and different backers of the Canadian trade say its local weather results have been decreased via expertise. And holding Alberta’s crude within the floor solely advantages petrol-rich dictatorships with poor human rights information, who will merely improve exports to make up for reductions in Canadian output with no ensuing advantages for the world’s local weather, Savage stated.

Much of Alberta’s oil is mined from large open-air pits often known as the tar sands, reasonably than pumped via conventional strategies, requiring extra vitality and water to extract every barrel.

The tar sands alone account for about 12 p.c of Canada’s complete greenhouse gasoline emissions, in line with authorities knowledge, and headlines within the enterprise press have known as it “one of the world’s dirtiest oil sources”, elevating specific ire from Alberta’s authorities.

The Alberta tar sands, pictured in 2005, cowl an enormous space in western Canada. Extracting heavy oil from these websites accounts for about 12 p.c of Canada’s complete greenhouse gasoline emissions [File: Jeff McIntosh/AP Photo]

“Calling Alberta’s oil some of the dirtiest in the world is blatantly false,” Savage stated. The province has been investing closely in inexperienced expertise, she stated, and it’s lowering emissions of methane, a by-product of oil extraction which is as much as 80 instances extra highly effective than carbon dioxide in trapping warmth in Earth’s ambiance, in line with a research revealed within the journal Nature this yr.

Methane, nonetheless, is chargeable for solely a small portion of worldwide heating – carbon dioxide ranges within the ambiance are greater than 200 instances greater, the Nature paper notes.

New cupboard focus

Guilbert’s appointment isn’t the one sign Trudeau’s authorities despatched on local weather with its new cupboard appointments this week, stated Laurie Adkin, a professor of political science on the University of Alberta.

Canada’s former atmosphere minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, was named the brand new minister of pure sources. That function had beforehand been held by a Seamus O’Regan who championed fossil gas pursuits, she added.

“He [O’Regan] was a disaster in my view,” Adkin informed Al Jazeera. “He was the inside man for the oil and gas industry in cabinet and had been holding back progress on the environment.”

Lacking an apparent champion within the cupboard, Canadian oil trade representatives say latest worth spikes — contributing to fears of a lengthy chilly winter within the UK, mass protests in Ecuador and world worries about inflation, are a results of underinvestment in oil and unrealistic inexperienced targets.

“As we watch nations around the world today struggling with an energy crisis and failing to provide responsible energy to their citizens, Canada must step up and offer a safe haven for natural gas and oil investment,” the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an trade association, informed Al Jazeera in response to written questions.

‘Bumps in the road’

To environmentalists, in distinction, decreased funding in oil extraction is a victory and an indication Canada and different main producers want to hurry up transitions to renewable vitality.

“Canadians and people around the world expect action on climate change, [especially] after the summer we had to deal with here,” Simon Dyer, deputy government director from the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based vitality analysis group, informed Al Jazeera.

Canada recorded its highest temperature on file this summer time, he stated, 49.6C (121.3F) in British Columbia. This contributed to ravaging wildfires which destroyed a whole city and a bunch of different climate-related disasters, underscoring the necessity to quickly cut back oil extraction, even when doing so comes at a short-term price.

“There are going to be bumps in the road with the energy transition.”