Emissions cap coming for Canadian oil and gas by end of 2023: minister

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

In an interview from Egypt where he is attending the 27th installment of the United Nations climate talks, Guilbeault said the government is developing the regulations in “record time.”

The final regulations are now expected to come at least two years after the Liberals first promised the cap in their 2021 election campaign platform.

“We will have draft regulations maybe by the spring, at the latest in the first half of the year,” Guilbeault said. “And then the goal is to have the complete regulations by before Christmas, which is you know, record level time to develop regulations.”

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He noted regulations to put a clean fuel standard in place took more than five years.

The timeline will still be disappointing to many Canadian environment organizations, who prefaced their own journeys to the COP27 talks with the hope that Guilbeault would at least use the event to put a number on where the cap will start.

The only guide comes from the Emissions Reduction Plan published in March, which set a tentative emissions target for oil and gas in 2030 of 110 million tonnes. That’s a 46 per cent cut from 2019 levels, and 32 per cent over 2005.

Canada is aiming to cut emissions across all sectors 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. Environmental Defence and the Climate Action Network Canada both said as COP27 began that the oil and gas needs to be 60 per cent from 2005 levels.

Aly Hyder Ali, the oil and gas program manager at Environmental Defence, said earlier this month that the Egypt meetings were Canada’s chance to prove to world leaders and Canadians “that they are committed” to following through on the cap by announcing the actual targets.

Without that we don’t necessarily see a lot level of certainty when it comes to this policy,” he said.

Emissions from oil and gas production account for about one quarter of Canada’s total carbon footprint, and are 83 per cent higher than they were 30 years ago. Overall emissions in Canada are about 23 per cent higher over the same time period.

Guilbeault, who sat on the environmental activist side of the table at COP meetings before he was elected as a member of Parliament in 2019, now finds himself accusing his former colleagues of being “disingenuous” by demanding he produce information on the cap now.

“Listen, the people who say we should do that right now would be the first ones to criticize me if I didn’t do proper consultations with for example, Indigenous people in Canada as we have a constitutional duty to do,” he said. “They know very well how our system works.”

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Canada’s rules for new regulations require certain amounts of consultation, including the publication of draft regulations and the acceptance of public comments on the draft before the final version is published.

“Frankly, I think it’s a bit disingenuous to to be saying, ‘Well, you know, we want the cap now,” Guilbeault said. “They clearly know how it works. And we’re cutting in half the time it takes to develop regulations.”

The cap is not the only collision between the federal government and environment groups in Egypt. Several groups heavily criticized Canada for including oil and gas companies, and banks that finance fossil-fuel projects, in the Canadian delegation.

On Friday, the Canadian Pavilion hosted an event with the Pathways Alliance, a consortium of Canada’s major oilsands companies. Several environment groups staged a boisterous walkout at the event.