Canadian oil hike puts Trudeau climate action in doubt

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was criticized by the energy sector this year for suggesting a need to "phase out&qu
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was criticized by the energy sector this year for suggesting a need to "phase out" oil sands production in January, which is Canada's top single fastest-growing source of CO2

Oil companies said Tuesday they planned to ramp up their output in Canada, throwing a wrench in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently the world's sixth largest oil producer, Canada expects to hike production by 32 percent to 5.1 million barrels per day by 2030, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The additional output will come entirely from the Alberta .

Trudeau was criticized by the energy sector this year for suggesting a need to "phase out" oil sands production, which is Canada's top single source of CO2 and its fasting growing.

"We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels," he said in January, two months after approving two new pipelines to the United States and to Pacific tidewater.

Environmental activists have been unrelenting in their dislike of the oil sands and calls to shut down extraction of heavy crude and bitumen, which is harder, more polluting and more expensive to extract than typical light crude.

But Trudeau instead gave a boost to the sector by approving the refurbishment of two existing Canadian pipelines to increase capacity.

US President Donald Trump's approval of the Keystone XL pipeline connecting the oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries was also welcomed by the industry.

More, bigger, better pipelines

Still the current pipeline capacity to transport about four million barrels per day is insufficient, said the CAPP, which pointed to an "urgent need for pipelines heading east, west and south."

The CAPP represents about 240 oil, gas and affiliated companies and estimates the industry will need to boost pipeline capacity to more than 5.5 million barrels per day to meet rising demand.

But increased oil output would undermine Trudeau's commitment to slash Canada's CO2 emissions by 30 percent compared with 2005 levels, by 2030.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna on Monday welcomed her G7 counterparts' appreciation of Canada's newfound "leadership and concrete actions to implement the Paris Agreement."

But it remains to be seen if measures such as a national carbon pricing scheme and a patchwork of regional cap and trade and other measures will be enough to meet that commitment.

A Senate report released in March concluded that Canada required a "Herculean shift" to meet its target, for example, the removal of "all the cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships" from the country, or a complete shutdown of its oil and gas sector.

The Trudeau government's proposed Can$10 carbon price rising to a maximum of Can$50 per tonne in 2022 will not be enough.

If the oil and gas sector ramps up as predicted, the increased pollution would outpace any reductions from his climate policies.

The CAPP has noted that despite the approval of the three pipelines in the last few months, more are "still needed to further connect Canada's growing supplies to diverse markets."

Next year, Canada will take over the rotating presidency of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations.

In a statement Greenpeace Canada said: "New pipelines have no place in a just, green Canada and are an obvious misfit in a G7 presidency agenda focused on climate action and clean growth among its top priorities."

© 2017 AFP

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