Canada to cut 30% of emissions by 2030, including oil sands

Canada to cut 30% of emissions by 2030, does not include oil sands

Mining at the Alberta oil sands. (Courtesy of Pembina Institute).

Canada’s federal government has promised to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, an ambitious target that, according to Environment Canada, includes plans for the oil sands sector.

The new emissions target, announced by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq in Winnipeg, aims to control emissions in three separate areas: methane releases from oil and gas extraction; natural-gas fired power plants, and the manufacture of chemicals and nitrogen fertilizers.

A spokesman for the ministry told MINING.com that despite rumours of the plan not setting specific rules to cut emissions in the oil sands, they are indeed considered as they are part of the oil and gas sector.

"Canada’s target is economy-wide and does not exclude anything," he said in an emailed statement. "Further, the methane regulations announced yesterday are for the oil and gas sector of which the oil sands is part of. In 2012 10% of the oil and gas sector’s methane emissions came from the oil sands."

The announcement comes more than three years after Canada abandoned its original emission reductions targets under the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement Canada signed on to almost two decades ago.

The leader of the country, which has historically matched its targets with those set south of the border, said last month it was unlikely that Canada’s targets were to match the U.S. this time.

And as recently as December last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said regulating carbon emissions in the oil sands industry would be “crazy” at a time of depressed crude prices.

Alberta has its own regulations, which set per barrel limits and a $15-a-tonne levy on emissions that exceed those limits. Those regulations expire at the end of June and the incoming New Democratic Party (NDP) government has promised to move forward with new strategies to boost energy efficiency measures and renewable energy supplies.

The NDP, however, does not yet have a broader plan for reduction of growing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector, particularly the oil sands, which is a significant part of Alberta’s carbon footprint.

On the way up

Environment Canada’s most recent emissions inventory shows 726 megatonnes of emissions in the country in 2013 — up 1.5% from a year earlier — with Alberta responsible for 267 megatonnes.

The federal agency has said the growth of emissions from the oil sands will likely mean Canada will miss its 2020 climate change commitments under the Copenhagen accord.

Canada has seen emissions jump in the last four years, although some provinces such as Ontario and Quebec have been much more successful at reaching reduction goals than others.

Canada is required to release its emission targets for the G7 conference in Germany early next month. That meeting is in preparation for a crucial climate conference being held in Paris at the end of the year, where almost 200 countries will present their plans to cut carbon emissions over the next decade.