SEARCH our ARCHIVE of over 14,000 articles
Vol. 11, No. 20 Week of May 14, 2006
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Kyoto has Canada in knots

New regime pulls back from Kyoto spending; confusion on made-in-Canada policy

Gary Park

For Petroleum News

Less than four months into its mandate, the new Canadian government appears to be on an environmental collision course of its own making.

Openly dubious about the Kyoto Protocol, to which it is legally bound, the administration of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is sending out a series of mixed messages.

In his first budget on May 2, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty studiously avoided a single reference to “Kyoto,” while abandoning the previous Liberal regime’s C$4 billion plan to meet Kyoto targets.

Instead, it talked about a C$2 billion “made-in-Canada” solution to climate change, tossing C$370 million into subsidized transit passes over two years.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has floated the idea that Canada may join the United States, India, China, Australia, South Korea and Japan in the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate — a group that accounts for half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The group, known as the AP6, has been scorned by environmentalists because it proposes no penalties and only small financial commitments.

Ambrose has also met with President George W. Bush’s senior advisor on environmental issues, James Connaughton, and U.S. undersecretary of state for global affairs, Paula Dobriansky to explore ways for the two countries to co-operate in cleaning up North America’s air and water.

Ambrose: AP6 ‘very interesting’

Ambrose said that although the U.S. officials did not ask Canada to join the AP6, she views the partnership as a “very interesting group. … They’re doing things that we’re very interested in participating in further down the road.”

Among other things, the AP6 presents a unique opportunity for Canada to look at investments in cleaner technology,” she said.

Otherwise, Ambrose said the Harper government will remain in Kyoto, although the targets to reduce emissions are unrealistic.

Later, under fire from opposition parties in Parliament, she declined to talk about joining the AP6, saying the focus is on a “made-in-Canada” plan.

She said the Kyoto plan could have seen Canada spend an average C$600 per family on international emissions credits, where she wants a plan that invests in Canadian solutions, technology and communities.

“The only model I’m interested in is one that puts Canadians first,” Ambrose said.

She is now developing a strategy for the second phase of Kyoto, beyond the initial 2008-2012 period, when Canada is pledged to cut emissions by 6 percent below 1990 levels.

The latest government figures show emissions are actually 24.4 percent above 1990 and are expected to continue to rise as fast as oil sands development gathers momentum.

According to observers, opting out of Kyoto would take two years or more, during which time Canada could face trade sanctions from Kyoto signatories or pay billions of dollars to buy greenhouse gas credits.

Environmentalists skeptical

While the government wrestles with its options, environmentalists are skeptical about the administration’s commitment to tackling climate change.

Sierra Club spokesman John Bennett said the AP6 “relies entirely on voluntary action” when Canada should be working on a program that has “real targets.”

Scientists are worried that even if promising research avenues were available, federal funds will dry up.

The Harper government’s commitment to pursuing its “made-in-Canada” path was reinforced when Flaherty withdrew a pledge by the previous government to spend C$538 million defraying the costs of Ontario actions to fight climate change.

The funding was intended to help Ontario phase out its high-polluting, coal-fired power stations and lower greenhouse gas emissions by 30 million metric tons in 2009, the equivalent of taking 7 million cars off the road.

Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten said her province will not waver in its determination to close coal-fired generating stations — a course that most observers believe will require more nuclear power plants.

Currently, 50 percent of Ontario’s electricity comes from its nuclear operations, which have involved massive cost overruns (one plant that was supposed to cost C$2.5 billion ended up at C$14.3 billion) and expensive refurbishments.

In another blow to Kyoto, Ottawa axed a C$500 million, five-year program to help low-income households cope with high energy costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Did you find this article interesting?
Tweet it
Digg it
Print this story | Email it to an associate.

Click here to subscribe to Petroleum News for as low as $69 per year.

Petroleum News - Phone: 1-907 522-9469 - Fax: 1-907 522-9583
[email protected] --- ---

Copyright Petroleum Newspapers of Alaska, LLC (Petroleum News)(PNA)©2013 All rights reserved. The content of this article and web site may not be copied, replaced, distributed, published, displayed or transferred in any form or by any means except with the prior written permission of Petroleum Newspapers of Alaska, LLC (Petroleum News)(PNA). Copyright infringement is a violation of federal law subject to criminal and civil penalties.

Shell Canada leader touts emissions trading

While the Canadian government is pulling back from the Kyoto Protocol to ponder its next move, one petroleum industry leader is growing tired of the uncertainty.

Shell Canada Chief Executive Officer Clive Mather is pressing for industry and government to join forces and accept the climate change treaty.

In two speeches within a week, Mather has called for action on several fronts.

“If we waited for everyone to sign up (to Kyoto), frankly, it would be too late,” he told a group of business leaders in Toronto on May 5.

A week earlier, at Shell Canada’s annual meeting, Mather proposed a domestic greenhouse gas emissions trading market along with construction of “public infrastructure” to collect carbon dioxide from sources such as refineries and use it in enhanced oil recovery projects.

“Especially here in Canada, we must encourage bold initiatives which lever new technologies,” he said, arguing technology will play a critical role in bridging the gap between traditional hydrocarbon supplies and new fuels that “we can expect to become mainstream over the next half century.”

Conceding he has a “personal passion” for the issue of climate change, Mather has been quietly campaigning for domestic emissions trading that would allow companies to sell credits for eliminating greenhouse gases.

There would be rewards for those who exceeded their reduction targets, or developed technologies to produce cleaner energy.

Mather, admitting Kyoto has its limitations, said he would also welcome any new initiatives that would enable the United States and China to play leading roles in the search for solutions.

He also said Shell Canada is prepared to lead by example, noting the company’s own operations are close to meeting the Kyoto target to lower their 1990 emissions by 6 percent.

Penn West Energy Trust Chief Executive Officer Bill Andrew has also urged the Alberta and Canadian governments to support carbon dioxide sequestration for enhanced oil recovery.

However, Mather said storing carbon dioxide does not “deliver commercial returns” and needs government financial help as part of a collective effort to make Canada a “technology showcase to the world.”

—Gary Park