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Energy transition and net zero themes announced for Calgary-hosted World Petroleum Congress in 2023

FILE: A winter cityscape of the Calgary downtown with light trails. Getty Images

The World Petroleum Congress set to be hosted in Calgary in 2023 will have a theme that sets it apart from past events: energy transition and the path to net zero.

It’s the first time net zero has been explicitly mentioned as a theme to the triennial petroleum industry gathering.

“This theme is an important new direction for the World Petroleum Congress and its members, and it reflects the exciting future in the global energy industry,” Denis Painchaud, president of the Canadian organizing committee, said in a statement.

Read more: Alberta economy to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2022; Calgary mayor sets stage for city’s recovery

“A lot of what happens in Calgary will help shape the direction of the global energy industry in the years to come.”

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The theme was announced Wednesday in Calgary on the same day a draft agreement was released at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, urging countries to speed up efforts to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

The announcement also comes out the day after a city committee forwarded a motion for the declaration of a climate emergency  to a Monday meeting of city council for debate and decision.

Read more: Calgary committee endorses climate emergency declaration

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek repeated an earlier rebuttal to the idea that such a declaration is at odds with a city economy with the energy sector as its backbone.

“Hosting the congress will not only drive significant economic impact for our city, but it will allow us to showcase our expertise and the great work that is happening right now as a global energy transition leader,” Gondek said in a statement, calling the theme “forward-thinking.”

Earlier this year, a coalition of major oil sands companies committed to a 97 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 as part of a net zero promise.

Click to play video: 'COP26: balancing the environment and the economy in Alberta'
COP26: balancing the environment and the economy in Alberta

Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson said the federal government would continue working with companies to achieve net zero goals.

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“Calgary will be an excellent venue for facilitating these conversations, and for making real progress in building a more sustainable and prosperous economy for the future,” Wilkinson said in a statement.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage agreed.

Read more: COP26 summit: Draft deal calls for stronger national climate plans by 2022

“At the heart of our development are the cornerstones of the oil and gas sector, innovation, entrepreneurship and ingenuity; with all of these strengths, Alberta is the right place to have these discussions and exchange of ideas,” she said in a statement.

Best practices have been predominant themes in past congresses, but event organizers said the Calgary gathering hopes to expand its scope to include other industry-adjacent areas like pipelines, petrochemicals, supply chain and clean tech.

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“The Calgary Congress will continue the tradition of addressing the key industry issues, including climate change and the environment, and comes at a critical time after COP26 when the world is expecting a transition to net zero,” Peirce Riemer, director general for the World Petroleum Council, said.

Event organizers expect the 24th World Petroleum Congress will attract 15,000 visitors from more than 100 countries with a local economic impact estimated to be $50 million. Some 500 CEOs and more than 50 heads of state and energy ministers are also expected to be in attendance.

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Click to play video: 'Kenney defends Alberta’s limited participation at COP26'
Kenney defends Alberta’s limited participation at COP26

It’s the first time since 2000 that Calgary has hosted the World Petroleum Congress, and much has changed in the city since then.

The city’s population has nearly doubled from 860,000 to 1.4 million.

The province’s GDP has grown from $208 billion in 2000 to $307.5 billion in 2020, peaking at $338 billion in 2014.

Read more: Calgary posts record office vacancy rate but new report points to better times ahead

But the city has also been hit hard by an oil price crash in 2015 that resulted in an emptying-out of the city’s downtown. A recent Avison Young report showed the city’s downtown vacancy at 29.9 per cent, and city reports show $16 billion in lost property value.

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Calgary’s 2023 event will be preceded by a COVID-delayed gathering in Houston, TX, in December.

–with files from Reuters

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