Oilsands producer Cenovus Energy Inc. said Thursday it will aim to achieve “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, joining a recent cavalcade of oil companies trumpeting their environmental aspirations.
The Calgary-based firm also announced it intends to reduce its emissions per barrel by 30 per cent by 2030, while keeping flat its total emissions.
Reaching the 2050 goal will require advances in technologies including carbon capture and storage that are not currently economically practical, conceded Al Reid, executive vice-president in charge of sustainability, in an interview.
But he said the company has a clear path forward to the 2030 target, adding the announcement is designed to draw the attention of both internal and external stakeholders.
“It’s aimed at a very broad audience to say … we’re so committed we’re going to set targets and we’re going to report on those targets on a year-over-year basis,” he said.
Cenovus has delayed planned expansions at its thermal oilsands projects in northern Alberta, which use steam to produce heavy bitumen from wells, because of delays in the construction of new export pipelines.
Reid said the company is hopeful that its commitments – which include ramping up spending by $1.5 billion with Indigenous businesses and reclaiming 1,500 decommissioned well sites by 2030 -will help make peace with opponents and allow growth to take place.
Cenovus’ commitment is a step in the right direction but the industry needs to say less about emissions intensity and do more to address its absolute emissions, said senior analyst Benjamin Israel of the environmental Pembina Institute.
“Flat is a good first step but more needs to happen and potentially before 2030,” he said.
“We need to start to have conversations about … credible plans to get to carbon neutral potentially before 2030.”
Cenovus’ plan echoes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise during last fall’s federal election that Canada would cut its national GHG emissions to net zero by 2050.
Israel and Greenpeace Canada campaigner Keith Stewart both pointed out that plans to cut emissions in the upstream energy sector do little to reduce emissions in the downstream, where burning fuel creates more than 70 per cent of the emissions.
Cenovus said its 2030 emissions target will be reached via a multi-pronged approach including operational optimization, incorporating electricity cogeneration capacity into future oilsands phases, more use of solvent technology to reduce steam needed to produce bitumen, methane emissions reductions in its conventional drilling operations and through increased use of data analytics.
GHG emissions at its oilsands operations have been reduced by 27%t per barrel over the past 15 years, it added.
Production went from 1.97 million cubic metres in 2014 to 21 million in 2018 while GHG emissions per cubic metre fell from 0.44 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to 0.322, Cenovus said. Total emissions rose from 871,000 tonnes in 2014 to about 6.8 million tonnes in 2018.
Financial analysts welcomed the plan, which they said add to Cenovus’ reputation as one of the lowest GHG intensity producers in the oilsands.
Fellow oilsands producer Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has also pledged to work toward a zero-emissions target without giving a specific date, using technology to improve efficiency and through its carbon capture and storage operations.
It says it has lowered emissions per barrel from its oilsands mining operations by 37% since 2012.
Calgary-based Suncor Energy Inc. set a target in 2016 of reducing GHG emissions intensity by 30 per cent below 2014 levels by 2030.
In September, it said it would spend $1.4 billion to install two cogeneration units at its Oil Sands Base Plant in northern Alberta, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent.
In December, it gave approval to build a $300-million wind power plant in southern Alberta.
Spanish energy giant Repsol, which produces oil and gas in Canada, also announced late last year it would try to achieve net zero emissions globally by 2050 through technology, increases in the production of biofuels and chemicals with low carbon footprint and expansion of low-carbon electricity generation.
The premier of New Brunswick said Monday he hopes to hear back early in the new year about whether the federal government will sign-off on his province’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial emitters.
N.B. premier Blaine Higgs
Blaine Higgs met with the prime minister Monday morning, the latest – and likely last – of the provincial and territorial leaders to meet face-to-face with Justin Trudeau this year in the wake of the October election.
He described the meeting as a cordial get together reflective of a changed tone in federal-provincial relations, a change that’s the result of concerted efforts by provinces, territories and Trudeau to renew a national bond strained by the election results.
One tangible example of those efforts, said Higgs, was the federal government’s decision last week to approve New Brunswick’s consumer carbon pricing plan.
“Getting that behind us . . . is important so that we can move on to other issues,” Higgs said.
Federal approval means as of April, New Brunswick consumers will stop paying the federal carbon tax and instead pay an equivalent provincial version.
Still, the Liberals have yet to do the same for the province’s proposal on regulating heavy emitters.
Higgs said he came away from his meeting with Trudeau with a sense it will go before the federal cabinet as early as the next meeting.
“I would say that early in the new year we should hear something back,” he said.
Higgs had been among the conservative premiers challenging the federal carbon tax in court, but changed course after nearly two-thirds of voters in his province chose a party in favour of the tax in the federal election.
But he said he still supports the idea of a court challenge on the grounds that a decision on whether the federal government has the jurisdiction to impose a new provincial tax could help guide the issue more broadly in the future.
Lawyers for the Alberta government began their arguments on the subject before the Alberta Court of Appeal on Monday.
The case begins in the wake of the Liberals approving that province’s heavy emitters plan earlier this month, just ahead of Trudeau’s meeting with Premier Jason Kenney.
Higgs said he did push Trudeau on why Alberta’s heavy emitters proposal was approved but New Brunswick’s wasn’t.
“We know the plan is similar to what was previously accepted from another province, so we think it’s good to go,” he said.
Higgs said he and other premiers have appreciated what he called Trudeau’s “stellar” efforts at provincial outreach after the election.
“I think the whole demeanour has changed, about our country pulling together,” Higgs said.
Among the topics also discussed Monday was the fate of a private abortion clinic in Fredericton that’s on the brink of closure.
Higgs’ government argues that it does not need to fund private abortion services as the procedure is covered when it is performed in hospital. Supporters of the clinic have said those services are becoming more and more challenging to access, and therefore to not fund private clinics violates the Canada Health Act.
Trudeau had promised during the campaign to ensure the law was upheld, and Higgs said the two discussed – but did not resolve – how it would be.
“We’ll ensure we meet what the prime minister is looking for in terms of accessibility for all patients, and that’s what our goal will be,” he said.
“Where that ends up, I’m not sure. The goal is to ensure we have the accessibility that’s required in our province.”
Higgs said he also received assurances from Trudeau that with the new U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade deal on the books, the Liberal government will resume effort to find a solution to the decades-old spat over softwood lumber with the U.S., which has had a major impact on the industry in New Brunswick.
An Ontario court says Premier Doug Ford’s government broke the law when it scrapped the province’s cap-and-trade system but even the groups who launched the case concede the finding won’t bring the program back.
Two of three judges on a divisional court panel said the government violated provincial laws when it failed to consult the public on a regulation ending Ontario’s cap-and-trade program last year.
The environmental groups that launched the case had sought a formal declaration against the government, but the judges declined the request and dismissed the case.
Greenpeace Canada called the ruling a symbolic victory but acknowledged the decision would never have forced the government to revive the program.
The groups said the Environmental Bill of Rights states that the province’s residents have the right to a 30-day consultation process on environmentally significant legislation.
Ontario’s cap-and-trade system aimed to lower greenhouse gas emissions by putting caps on the amount of pollution companies in certain industries could emit.
Premier Doug Ford made good on an election promise to scrap the system during last year.
Polarization of the climate change debate as it relates to the role of the Canadian energy industry indicates an “extreme” lack of leadership from all political parties in Canada, says the CEO of oilsands producer MEG Energy Corp.
Speaking at the Natural Resources Summit in Calgary, Derek Evans said he’s frustrated by the wide gulf in views exhibited by parties in the run-up to the Oct. 21 election.
“Some of us have banged on the prime minister’s door and said, ‘I would like to talk to you,’ but I can’t get in. Either I’m not big enough, I’m not loud enough, I don’t represent enough people,”’ he said.
“We’re not shying away from trying to get in there and create those conversations but I’ll go out on a limb and say I have never seen such an extreme lack of leadership across all parties about something that is as central and as critical to the jobs and the economy of this country.”
With polls showing the front-running Liberals and Conservatives in a close race, some observers have suggested a minority government might have to rely on support of the NDP or the Green Party, both of which have signalled they will not support expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline that Ottawa bought last year for $4.5 billion.
Evans told reporters later he couldn’t expand on his views of the leadership issue because of new election rules that could result in him being fined if he says too much during the campaign.
Both Evans and Steve Laut, vice-chairman of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., said they are working toward an ultimate goal of taking their companies to “net zero” in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
MEG will accomplish that through efficiencies in using steam and solvents at its oilsands works and with carbon capture and storage, Evans said.
“It’s a multitude of technologies, a multitude of process changes that we’re working on,” said Laut, citing continuous improvements in oilsands extraction, carbon capture and storage and carbon capture and conversion, where new products are made from captured carbon.
Neither would provide a timeline to reach their goals.
Claims of cleaner Canadian energy are suspicious, said Jesse Firempong of Greenpeace Canada, citing studies that show the industry is fourth-most greenhouse gas intensive in the world and that average emissions per barrel increased between 1990 and 2017.
Canadian Natural says it cut its corporate GHG intensity per barrel by 20 per cent between 2014 and 2018.
The summit, held to examine how the energy sector is dealing with rising environmental opposition such as last Friday’s climate strike, was hosted by the Canadian Global Cities Council, a group of eight metro chambers of commerce and boards of trade from across Canada.
The Toronto Region Board of Trade supports oil and gas because of the economic benefits the country as a whole gains from having a healthy energy sector, said CEO Jan De Silva.
“Jobs solve a lot of challenges for everyone in our communities,” she said.
“These are not Alberta’s issues alone. How Canada can be a leader in natural resources and lead the world in clean tech matters greatly to Toronto and to the entire country.”
World leader after world leader told the United Nations on Monday that they will do more to prevent a warming world from reaching even more dangerous levels, but as they made their pledges, they conceded it was not enough.
Sixty-six countries have promised to have more ambitious climate goals and 30 swore to be carbon neutral by midcentury, said Chilean President Sebastian Pinera Echenique, who is hosting the next climate negotiations later this year.
Heads of nations such as Finland and Germany promised to ban coal within a decade.
U.S. President Donald Trump dropped by, listened to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s detailed pledges, including going coal-free, and then left without saying anything.
And even before world leaders made their promises in three-minute speeches, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg in an emotional speech chided the leaders with the repeated phrase, “How dare you.”
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here,” Thunberg said. “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you have come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
She told the U.N. that even the strictest emission cuts being talked about only gives the world a 50% chance of limiting future warming to another 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.72 degrees Fahrenheit) from now, which is a global goal.
“We will not let you get away with this,” Thunberg said. “Right now is where we draw the line.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the Climate Action Summit by saying: “Earth is issuing a chilling cry: Stop.”
Guterres told world leaders that it’s not a time to negotiate but to act to make the world carbon neutral by 2050. He said the world can hit its strictest temperature goal that Thunberg alluded to.
More than 60 world leaders are set to speak.
A law requiring gas station owners across Ontario to post anti-carbon tax stickers on their pumps came into force Friday, but the province said it won’t be issuing fines right away for those who don’t comply.
A spokeswoman for Energy Minister Greg Rickford said inspectors who will be checking for the mandatory blue decals won’t create a burden for businesses.
“For the first few months, inspectors are focusing on education and helping gasoline retailers come into compliance,” Sydney Stonier said in a statement. “After this initial period, inspectors could issue warnings and lay charges as they deem necessary.”
The law brought in by the Progressive Conservative government – which has been waging a legal and public relations battle against the carbon tax since taking power last summer – lays out a series of penalties that can be issued against those who fail to display the stickers.
Individuals could be fined up to $500 each day, or up to $1,000 a day for subsequent offences. Corporations could be fined up to $5,000 a day, or up to $10,000 a day for subsequent offences.
Premier Doug Ford has said the stickers are part of an effort to educate people about the costs of the carbon tax, but critics have called them misleading, taxpayer-funded propaganda ahead of the Oct. 21 federal election.
Last week, Ford said that gas station owners who don’t put the stickers on their pumps will face fines but stressed that they would be less than the maximum penalty of $10,000 a day.
The government has earmarked $30 million for its fight against the carbon tax, which includes the legal case it is taking to the country’s top court and the sticker campaign.
A spokeswoman for federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Ford’s government was spreading misinformation about the Liberal carbon pricing scheme.
“Premier Ford is wasting taxpayers’ dollars misleading Ontarians about our plan,” Sabrina Kim said in a statement.
The stickers show the federal carbon tax adding 4.4 cents per litre to the price of gas now, rising to 11 cents a litre in 2022. They do not include information about rebates available to residents.
The carbon tax is expected to cost a typical household $258 this year and $648 by 2022. Residents of provinces with the tax will be getting rebates on their income tax returns that start at $128 annually and increase for people with spouses or dependents at home.
At one gas station in downtown Toronto, the decals were receiving mixed reviews from some drivers.
Taxi driver Veron Cascart said the Tory government is playing politics with the carbon tax.
“You know the environment, we have to do something about it,” he said. “So I don’t mind paying a little extra when it’s helping the environment.”
But Rachel Comiskey said she supports the Ford government’s opposition to the carbon tax. The 26-year-old said she does a lot of driving for work but the per-kilometre allowance provided by her employer isn’t increasing, even if the cost of fuel is.
“Having the carbon tax push-back is beneficial to us,” she said.
NDP energy and climate change critic Peter Tabuns said the government should abandon the mandatory stickers.
“Ford is forcing small businesses, and some big businesses, to carry propaganda,” he said. “This is propaganda that’s undermining climate action and that’s dishonest.”
Greenpeace Canada called the stickers “misleading” partisan ads.
“It looks like a Conservative campaign sign,” said the group’s senior energy strategist, Keith Stewart. “We have the government spending our money to print the stickers that companies have to post or face massive fines.”
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner has launched his own free stickers that outline the costs of not taking action to address climate change and said Ford was making the wrong move.
“The premier should stop wasting tax dollars sabotaging climate solutions and forcing businesses to display his political propaganda,” Schreiner said.
The Tory plan has also drawn criticism from Ontario’s Chamber of Commerce, who in April said the stickers violates the rights and freedoms of gas station operators. The sticker plan has also drawn the threat of a legal challenge from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
While the Ontario government is mailing out stickers, some retailers still have not yet received theirs. Stickers can be ordered through Publications Ontario or by calling 1-800-668-9938. However, the website shows that as of Monday, stickers were out of stock.
It’s worth noting that retailers on federally designated First Nations’ reserves or land are not required to display the stickers.
-with files from Michelle Warren
Saskatchewan says the Supreme Court of Canada has denied the province’s request to delay its appeal hearing over the carbon tax.
The province says the Supreme Court recently issued an order stating the hearing remain tentatively set for Jan.14.
The government had asked for more time and expected a delay could mean a hearing next spring.
It argued a delay would allow for better co-ordination of challenges coming from other provinces such as Ontario.
Ottawa opposed a delay and suggested the hearing should take place in a timely manner to provide certainty for households and businesses
A statement from Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice notes the hearing date is only tentative.
It says the province will have to see what impact on scheduling Ontario’s appeal to the Supreme Court may have. That province wants the high court to re-examine an Ontario Appeal Court decision in June that said the federal carbon tax is constitutional.
Before any appeal hearing, Canadians will vote in October’s federal election. Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer is campaigning on a promise to scrap the carbon tax if his party is elected and he becomes prime minister.
A spokeswoman for federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says politicians should stop wasting taxpayer dollars to fight climate action in court.
“A price on pollution is one of the most effective and affordable tools that we have to tackle climate change, and one that will leave the vast majority of families better off,” press secretary Sabrina Kim said in an emailed statement last week.
Ontario is taking its fight against the federal carbon tax to the country’s top court.
Environment Minister Jeff Yurek says the province is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a decision from Ontario’s Court of Appeal that found the carbon pricing scheme is constitutionally sound.
The Progressive Conservatives say the carbon charge is an illegal tax and a violation of the Constitution because it allows the federal government to intrude on provincial jurisdiction.
Ontario’s top court ruled in a split decision in June that the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, enacted in April, is within Parliament’s jurisdiction to legislate in relation to matters of “national concern.”
The filing to the Supreme Court comes after Ontario Premier Doug Ford said last week that the fate of the province’s carbon tax court challenge would be decided after the federal election.
Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba are all in the midst of legal challenges against the carbon price.
Doug Ford says the fate of Ontario’s carbon tax court challenge will be decided after the federal election, raising the possibility that his government could end up abandoning the legal action.
When asked Friday what he would do if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are re-elected on Oct. 21, the premier said he would have to re-assess Ontario’s position.
“We’ll sit down and consult with the attorney general … We’ll be consulting with the cabinet and then we’ll move forward from there,” he said
Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has said he would scrap the national carbon tax if his party forms government.
Voters, Ford said, would have the ultimate say.
“This carbon tax, it’s not going to be the courts that are going to decide. The people are going to decide when the election is held,” he said. “Once the people decide, I believe in democracy, I respect democracy, we move on.”
The Progressive Conservative government lost its case against the federal carbon price at the province’s top court in June and said it would appeal to the Supreme Court.
Ford’s spokeswoman Ivana Yelich said Friday that the government believes the carbon tax is a “cash grab under the guise of environmental policy” and will do everything it can to fight it.
Other provinces, including Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba, are also challenging the carbon price in court.
A spokesman for Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Friday that the province’s legal action will continue, regardless of the outcome of the election.
“Our government believes that the federal election provides a significant opportunity for voters in Saskatchewan and across Canada to soundly reject the harmful and ineffective federal carbon tax,” Jim Billington said in a statement.
“However, we recognize that an important question of jurisdictional authority will continue to exist no matter which federal party is elected come October.”
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the Ford government’s lawsuit has always been “political theatre.”
“What’s really causing the premier to consider backing down is people’s overwhelming desire for climate leadership,” he said in a statement. “No one wants a premier who will waste tax dollars sabotaging solutions when the local and global impacts of climate change are becoming more and more dire.”
Greenpeace Canada said Ford should drop the case immediately.
“If Premier Ford wants to stop wasting our tax money on efforts to stop other governments from filling the hole he has created in Canada’s response to the climate crisis, then he should cut his losses and do it now,” said the group’s senior energy strategist, Keith Stewart.
The Ontario government has pledged to spend approximately $30 million fighting the federal carbon price in court.
It’s also using some of those funds to wage a public relations battle against the federal Liberal government that includes making gas station owners stick anti-carbon tax stickers on pumps across the province by the end of next week.
Ford said Friday that gas station owners who don’t put the stickers on their pumps will face fines but stressed that they would be less than the maximum penalty of $10,000 a day.
The law lets the Tory government send inspectors to see if gas stations are properly displaying the stickers and sets out penalties for non-compliance.
“We will enforce them if these gas stations are not putting them up and it’s not going to be $10,000, it’s going to be less than $500,” Ford said.
The blue stickers show the federal carbon tax adding 4.4 cents per litre to the price of gas now, rising to 11 cents a litre in 2022.
The sticker plan has drawn condemnation from the opposition parties, business groups and the threat of a legal challenge from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.