In a letter published Dec. 7, Paul Barnes, Director, Atlantic Canada and Arctic Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), took issue with a recent Climate Watch NL report. (“Climate Watch NL report contained a number of inaccuracies”). We offer several essential clarifications in response.
It is important to take any public commentary by CAPP with a large grain of salt: CAPP is, after all, the primary lobby group for Canadian oil and gas producers and it has a long history of using its extensive financial resources to intervene in public debates across the country to slow effective emissions policy.
Climate Watch NL, in contrast, is a group of concerned citizens — well-informed by science — but with barely any budget, that is urging political leaders in this province to confront the climate crisis and secure our long-term well-being. Indeed, Climate Watch NL continues to work to encourage policies that can help us build a truly sustainable economic future.
Barnes emphasizes that offshore production facilities will be required to meet performance standards to encourage emission reductions. However, to date these standards — and the efforts of the oil and gas industry referenced by Barnes — amount to far too few emissions reductions, and far too late.
His carbon leakage argument does not hold much water either, when one considers that oil fields are already being developed in jurisdictions with weaker environmental regulations than Canada, and that the two are not mutually exclusive. Companies invest in N.L.’s oil resources precisely because they are lower-emission options with stable government oversight and predictable regulatory regimes. Many oil companies have already factored carbon pricing into their operations and contend that a known carbon pricing mechanism provides less risk than unknown or fluctuating regulations. Emission intensive, trade exposed (EITE) sectors must operate within the mechanisms of the free trade system, where externalities such as carbon emissions are included in the cost of their operations.
If we want to have any chance of a stable climate (and, therefore, economy) for the next generation we need steep absolute emissions reductions that fall to near zero by 2050. That our government would provide exemptions for emissions associated with exploration is therefore wholly wrongheaded. Most of the world’s known reserves of fossil fuels are unburnable if we are to reach our global climate targets, let alone those yet to be discovered. This reality should be a central consideration in all future oil and gas extraction activities, and the exemption of exploration activities from emissions policy, such as a carbon tax, is beyond problematic. Ignoring these realities, as CAPP would have us do, does not make them go away.
As we state in our report many other countries, including many developing countries, are making headway in developing their renewable energy capacity and are electrifying infrastructure to decrease their reliance on fossil fuels. The commitment of the oil and gas industry to environmental protection cannot be blindly trusted through relaxed regulation. We cannot ignore the longer and well documented history of the industry’s attempts to block or delay productive environmental policies, nor multiple recent environmental events which have demonstrated that our regulation of the industry’s offshore activities is far too lax.
Global climate negotiations are taking place right now in Poland. Young people from around the world are there to demand action from political leaders and to confront lobbyists who have long blocked effective climate policy at the expense of our future. Here at home, Climate Watch NL encourages CAPP, and the companies it represents, to stop being a part of the problem and instead realign their business plans to acknowledge climate targets; to use their assets and energy industry experience to assist in a managed decline of fossil fuel production while building up carbon-neutral industries in renewable energy, manufacturing and infrastructure development in time to meet those targets.
Delia Warren (P. Eng), Dr. Ian Simpson, Simon Jansen, and Conor Curtis
Climate Watch NL