Canada’s Drive to Net Zero

The Trudeau government began its second term pledging tougher 2030 carbon targets, a net-zero target for 2050, greater climate accountability, and a whole-of-government response to the climate crisis. With the focus now shifting to building back better through green recovery investments, will Canada show up as a climate leader or laggard, at home and abroad? More on Energy Mix=>

In Conversation: Ottawa is Continuing Its ‘One Eye Shut’ Climate Policy, Carter and Dordi Say

Angela Carter is a political science professor and Truzaar Dordi is a PhD candidate in climate finance at the University of Waterloo. In this interview, they explain their research showing that the fossil fuels Canada expect to extract until 2050 would soak up a full 16% of the world’s remaining carbon budget, and talk about what climate policy would look like if Ottawa weren’t formulating it with one eye shut.

The Mix: We keep hearing that Canada represents only a small percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions. How did you conclude that our projected emissions add up to 16% of the remaining global carbon budget?

Truzaar Dordi: The statistic we most frequently hear is that Canadian emissions make up 1.6% of total global emissions. But Canada’s contribution to global emissions is actually much larger if we account for the significant climate impact of our oil and gas exports. We wanted to correct that common misconception.

Angela Carter: The calculation is actually pretty straightforward, but we triple-checked it with our colleagues, because this is a controversial point in the Canadian context. We took the Canada Energy Regulator (CER)’s Evolving Scenario for projected oil and gas production to 2050—and that choice was important, because the Evolving Scenario assumes climate policy will strengthen over time. The reference projection, the traditional baseline, would have shown even higher production levels. So we started from a conservative estimate of production.

And what we found is that over the next three decades, the Government of Canada anticipates the country will produce more than 60.5 billion barrels of oil and an additional 187 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. We then applied the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard emission factors associated with the consumption of that oil and gas, calculating how much carbon dioxide will go into the atmosphere after it’s burned and consumed. Those emission factors are also conservative because Canada’s oil and gas sector has a higher emissions intensity, and they leave out fugitive methane emissions, which we don’t do a very good job of measuring in Canada.

On this basis, we calculated that Canada’s oil and gas production would result in 36 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide through 2050. New research indicates that the global remaining carbon budget is 230 billion tonnes—this would give us a 67% chance of keeping within a 1.5°C temperature rise. So the oil and gas Canada anticipates producing in the next 30 years would take up 16% of that remaining carbon budget.

Complete conversation =>

The Energy Mix is published by Energy Mix Productions Inc., a Canadian non-profit that promotes community awareness of, engagement in, and action on climate change, energy, and carbon-free solutions.

Each week, we scan up to 1,000 news headlines to find the groundbreaking, provocative, hopeful, or sobering stories that help you make sense of a complex, fast-moving issue.

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