Global emissions implications of continuing to increase Canada’s oil production

Gooderham Nathan

[Web page editor: Read this exposure of the Canadian government's duplicity on emissions.]

Aug 23 2022 - 

In a relationship of trust, remaining silent about the most material and consequential information is deceit

Over a year ago, in April 2021, we began efforts to directly question Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson (now Minister of Natural Resources) about the fundamental contradiction between the path Canada is presently following, continuing to rapidly expand our oil production while ignoring repeated warnings by climate scientists about the fateful consequences of continuing to increase global oil supply.

Wilkinson briefly replied to our initial inquiry, advising that he had sent our written questions to Environment Ministry staff. Receiving no further response, on November 30, 2021, we sent a further letter to Minister Wilkinson requesting that he answer the “questions we presented to you concerning the incompatibility between the Federal Government’s climate goals announced during the past year, since November 2020, and the planned ongoing expansion of Canada’s oil production”. Our central question was framed in this way:

Do you agree that all further expansion of oil sands production should end now, and that Canada must establish a plan that provides for a gradual reduction of Canada’s total crude oil production to 2030 and a deeper reduction to 2050, a plan aligned with the reduced levels of global oil output that over the next three decades will be essential to meet the net-zero emissions goal by 2050 and limit warming to 1.5°C?

After a delay of eight months, on July 22, 2022, Wilkinson sent us a four-page reply.

In that interval, the Federal Government has acted aggressively to push forward policies to ensure Canada’s oil production will continue to increase for another 10 or 20 years.

On March 29, 2022, the Federal Government published its most recent climate policy statement called the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP). The 233-page document lays out details of promised policies that the government says will reduce Canada’s total domestic emissions 40% by 2030, down to an estimated 443 million tonnes (Mt), which the report calls our “notional pathway to 2030”.

Yet, set sharply against this picture of promised deep emissions reductions within Canada over the next nine years, this same ERP document incorporates a detailed plan by our government to increase Canada’s oil production 26% to 2030 and maintain high production levels for another 20 years after that. The plan envisions no significant reduction in Canada’s oil production levels before 2050.

Built right into this new “emissions reduction plan” is the promise, and acceptance, that Canada’s oil production will continue to increase to 2030 and beyond. But that ambitious plan cannot be reconciled with the findings of multiple recent international analyses, including most prominently the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) May 18, 2021 “Net-Zero Emission by 2050 Scenario”, which explains the rapid pace and severity of the immediate deep reductions in global oil production required by 2030 and deeper cuts needed by 2040 to give the world even a 50-50 chance to keep the heating of the earth to within the 1.5°C threshold. The IEA has concluded that within this decade a 25% reduction in global oil production would be required, down to 72 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2030, and a 50% cut down to 44 million bpd by 2040. Global oil production is currently about 100 million bpd, and still rising. Canada is the world’s 4th largest oil supplier.

Canada’s ERP document entirely omits any reference to the deep cuts in oil consumption required by 2030 and 2040.

The government’s source for the projected growth of Canada’s oil production to 2030, relied on and cited by the ERP, is the Federal Government’s own energy agency, the Canada Energy Regulator (CER).  The ERP has adopted the CER’s “Current Policies Scenario” data, published on December 9, 2021. Jonathan Wilkinson, the Member of Parliament for North Vancouver, is now Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources. In that capacity he is also the Minister responsible for the CER. The CER has never prepared – or at least never publicly disclosed – any analysis that examines whether Canada’s rising oil production can possibly be aligned with a 1.5°C world.  

In his July reply, Wilkinson is evasive. He seriously misrepresents the core findings of the IEA’s May 18, 2021 report, making the claim that “based on the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Net-Zero Roadmap, crude oil will continue to be a major part of the energy supply mix in 2040 and beyond”. In truth, the IEA has concluded that by 2040 global oil use must decline 50% below the 2019 level and by 2050 fall 75%. Wilkinson is silent about how continued growth Canada’s oil production can possibly be reconciled with the IEA’s actual findings or with any future that offers the world’s children a realistic chance to keep the further heating of the earth within the 1.5°C or 2°C threshold.         

We responded to Minister Wilkinson on August 23, 2022. Our public letter documents the Minister’s refusal (and the government’s failure) to speak to Canadians with absolute candour about the grave and irreversible emissions implications of continuing to increase Canada’s oil production to 2030 and beyond.

Read our public letter to Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources

Click the yellow button to get the letter (opens as a PDF in your browser).

The text of our earlier letter dated November 30, 2012, to Minister Wilkinson is found here. His four-page reply to us dated July 22, 2022, is found here.