Oil refineryOil refinery (milan degraeve / Unsplash)

In a stark response to the recent testimony of Canada’s leading oil and gas executives, Salomé Sané, Climate Campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, expressed profound disappointment. Addressing the executives’ failure to acknowledge their role in the climate crisis, Sané stated:

“Big Oil executives evaded every question about their responsibility in fueling the climate crisis and the costs of climate inaction while refusing to commit to any specific investments in reducing emissions or renewable energy. This charade has to stop. It is untenable for communities to bear the costs of extreme weather like flood damage to homes or emergency wildfire evacuations, while greedy fossil fuel companies continue to exacerbate the climate crisis. We need the Canadian government to step up and hold Big Oil accountable by making them pay into a new Climate Recovery Fund. This fund would provide financial support directly to communities and local governments to repair, rebuild, and adapt to future climate change impacts.”

This week saw CEOs from Canada’s largest oil sands companies, including Suncor Energy, Imperial Oil, Cenovus Energy, Enbridge, and Shell, testify before lawmakers in Ottawa. These executives expressed support for a carbon tax but strongly opposed the proposed federal cap on oil and gas emissions. During the video conference with Canada’s House of Commons committee, they discussed their emission reduction strategies but fell short of committing to substantial investments in renewable energy.

Government Introduces Emission Cap Framework

On December 7, 2023, the Canadian Government unveiled the Regulatory Framework for an Oil and Gas Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cap. This ambitious framework aims to implement a cap-and-trade system under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, setting controlled limits on emissions from the oil and gas sector. The regulations are designed to ensure a gradual reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the upstream and liquefied natural gas (LNG) subsectors, with a goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Despite these efforts, GHG emissions in Canada continue to rise.

Industry Response and Investments

Rich Kruger, CEO of Suncor, highlighted his company’s substantial investments in projects aimed at transitioning to alternative fuels and generating low-carbon power. These initiatives include:

  • Energy Efficiency Projects: Enhancing operational efficiency to reduce overall emissions.
  • Renewable Fuels Facilities: Building and operating facilities that produce renewable energy.
  • Emission-Reducing Technologies: Testing new technologies for in situ extraction to lower emissions.
  • Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Participating in the oil sands Pathways Alliance, a collaborative effort to capture and store carbon emissions.

The Call for Accountability

Despite these investments, Greenpeace Canada and other environmental advocates argue that these efforts are insufficient given the scale of the climate crisis. They call for more aggressive measures and greater accountability from the oil and gas sector. The proposed Climate Recovery Fund is a critical component of this call to action, designed to provide financial support to communities affected by climate change, enabling them to repair, rebuild, and adapt to future climate impacts.

Conclusion

The testimony of Canada’s oil and gas executives has sparked a renewed debate about the industry’s role in the climate crisis. While some progress is being made, environmental advocates like Greenpeace Canada insist that more needs to be done. They urge the Canadian government to hold Big Oil accountable and to ensure that these companies contribute fairly to the costs of climate mitigation and adaptation. As the climate crisis continues to escalate, the call for meaningful action and corporate responsibility grows ever louder.