Environment minister says emissions cap on oil and gas expected by end of 2023

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Monday that a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from Canada’s oil and gas industry will be ready by the end of next year.

Gilboa, who is in Egypt for the 27th UN climate talks, said in an interview in Egypt that the government is working on regulations in “record time.”

Final rules are now expected to come at least two years after the Liberals first promised a cap in their 2021 campaign platform.

“We will probably have a draft regulation by spring, at the latest in the first half of this year,” Guilbeault said. “Then the goal is to have full regulations in place by Christmas, which is, you know, record time for regulations.”

He noted that it took more than five years for regulations to develop clean fuel standards.

The timeline is still disappointing for many Canadian environmental groups, who at the start of their own journey to the COP27 talks hoped that Gilbeau would at least use the event to determine where the cap would start.

The only guidance comes from an emissions reduction plan announced in March that set a tentative emissions target of 110 million tonnes for oil and gas in 2030. This is a 46% decrease from 2019 levels and a 32% decrease from 2005.

Canada’s goal is to reduce emissions across all industries by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Environmental Protection Canada and the Climate Action Network both said that at the start of COP27, oil and gas would need to be cut by 60 per cent from 2005 levels.

Environmental Defense oil and gas program manager Aly Hyder Ali said earlier this month that the Egypt meeting was an opportunity for Canada to demonstrate to world leaders and Canadians that “they are committed” to meeting the cap by announcing realistic targets.

“Without it, we wouldn’t necessarily see a lot of certainty around this policy,” he said.

Emissions from oil and gas production account for about a quarter of Canada’s total carbon footprint and are 83 percent higher than they were 30 years ago. Over the same period, Canada’s total emissions were about 23 percent higher.

Guilbeault, who sat on the side of environmental activists at COP meetings before he was elected to Congress in 2019, now finds himself accusing his former colleagues of being “hypocritical” in asking him to provide information about the cap now.

“Listen, those who say we should do this now will be the first to criticize me if I don’t properly consult with the indigenous peoples of Canada because we have a constitutional obligation to do it,” he said. “They know very well how our system works.”

Canada’s new regulatory rules require some level of consultation, including the release of draft regulations and acceptance of public comments on the draft before the final version is released.

“Frankly, I think it’s a bit hypocritical to say, ‘Well, you know, we want a cap now,'” Guilbeault said. “They know exactly how it works. And we’ve cut the time it takes to develop regulations in half.”

The cap is not the only conflict between Egypt’s federal government and environmental groups. Some groups have sharply criticized Canada for including oil and gas companies and banks that finance fossil fuel projects in the Canadian delegation.

On Friday, the Canada Pavilion hosted an event in conjunction with Pathways Alliance, a consortium of major Canadian oil sands companies. Several environmental groups staged a raucous strike at the event.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s national climate manager, Julia Levine, tweeted Monday that oil and gas companies are polluters with no sincere commitment to addressing climate change and should not be allowed to negotiate.

“At COP27, the presence of the fossil fuel lobbyists was overwhelming,” she said. “They’re here paying big bucks to sell their wrong solutions, like (carbon capture and storage).”

Everyone deserves a place at the table, Guilbeault said.

“I respectfully disagree with my former environmental campaign colleagues,” he said.

“I think it’s a very slippery slope when governments start to decide in a democratic society who can participate and who can’t.”

Mia Rabson, Canadian Press

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