Alberta oil and gas industry, environmental groups watching COP26 climate talks

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Alberta oil and gas industry, environmental groups watching COP26 climate talks
With COP26 getting underway, there are questions in Alberta about what it could mean to the province’s oil and gas sector. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Oct 31, 2021

An Alberta-based clean-energy think tank says there needs to be a partnership between the federal and provincial governments to make progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which starts Sunday in Scotland, will see world leaders and government officials gather for 12 days of talks. What happens there could have implications for Alberta’s oil and gas sector.

Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions are the highest in the country, according to federal data.

“In many ways, we are waiting for the government of Alberta to catch up with where the public, industry and other levels of government are already acting,” said Simon Dyer, deputy executive director at the Pembina Institute.

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Dyer, who will be attending the climate summit, predicts Canada will remain unable to significantly reduce emissions without addressing oil and gas and transportation emissions.

Dyer said Canada can’t succeed without progress in Alberta.

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“Unfortunately, Alberta seems to be isolating itself from this conversation. We haven’t even made a commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050. Alberta is sort of on the outside looking in and that’s dangerous to our industries, of course, which are going to be competing in this low carbon future,” Dyer said.

Neither Premier Jason Kenney nor any of his cabinet ministers are going to the climate summit.

“We are not travelling unless it’s absolutely essential,” said Kenney on Oct. 25. “I think just one more politician flying to a gabfest in Glasgow is not going to make any meaningful difference.”

Kenney recently met with representatives from the five oilsands producers that have formed an alliance to reach net-zero targets by 2050.

“That’s going to take massive investment in game-changing technology. Alberta will be there to help support that,” Kenney said.

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Oilsands giants Suncor Energy, Cenovus Energy, Canadian Natural, MEG Energy and Imperial launched the Oilsands Pathways to Net Zero initiative earlier this year.

“Net-zero by 2050 is an incredible goal. It’s doable. It’s only doable if we really collaborate, but I’m confident that we will be able to do that,” said Suncor Energy’s chief sustainability officer Martha Hall Findlay.

Click to play video: 'COP26 gets underway in Glasgow, Scotland'
COP26 gets underway in Glasgow, Scotland

Suncor Energy is sending a representative to Glasgow.

Hall Findlay said meeting industry targets will require substantial investment from governments, but she predicts the payoff will mean jobs and cleaner energy.

“Our sector should then be globally preferred in terms of source, so if we achieve that, then we get to keep the industry alive,” Hall Findlay said.

“From a transition perspective, I’m actually really excited about what this can mean in terms of jobs, in terms of well-paying jobs, in terms of jobs that people will feel proud of having.”

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Alberta has targets for lowering methane emissions and plans to eliminate coal-fired electricity in 2023 but does not have an overall emissions goal in place.

Kenney said Alberta will be releasing an updated climate strategy later this year.

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