West Coast Reacts: Oil and gas emissions cap framework a welcome move for Canadian climate action, but must be strengthened

Lawyers highlight need for urgency & increased ambition in forthcoming regulations

xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) & səl̓ilwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Territories/VANCOUVER 

Today, legal experts at West Coast Environmental Law welcome a new federal framework for capping greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the oil and gas sector, and urge the federal government to move quickly to strengthen the level of the cap and remove loopholes in order to best ensure the oil and gas sector does its part in reducing Canada’s emissions.

The Regulatory Framework for an Oil and Gas Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cap, announced by federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson during the COP28 climate negotiations in Dubai, outlines proposed federal measures to cap emissions from the sector at 35-38% below 2019 levels by 2030. However, with “compliance flexibilities” included in the framework, the actual legal cap is just 20-23% below 2019 levels.

“There is no way Canada will be able to meet its climate targets without addressing emissions from the oil and gas industry – a sector whose emissions have continued to increase while most other industries have been doing their part to reduce their climate impact. This crucial framework has been a long time coming, but we’re disturbed that pressure to put corporate profits ahead of the safety of our communities and planet has resulted in loopholes and a lack of urgency,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer.

According to today’s announcement, draft regulations are expected in 2024 and the cap will not be in place until 2026 or later. Concerningly, lawyers say “flexibility measures” could undermine the price signals that could move Canada towards a more sustainable future.

“It has already been two years since the Prime Minister first promised to cap oil and gas industry emissions, and there’s still much to be done to get this policy past the finish line,” said Gage. “Pushback from the industry and laggardly provinces has led to repeated delays, concessions and weaker targets for reducing the sector’s emissions. Despite the provincial squabbling, Canadians across the board have demonstrated support for regulating the industry’s emissions, and we can’t afford to kick the can down the road any longer.”

A poll released in May 2023 showed that two thirds of Canadians (64%) agree that the oil and gas industry should be required to limit emissions so that Canada can meet its climate goals. West Coast lawyers and many other climate advocates will be paying close attention and providing input as the framework moves ahead, and have communicated to Canada their expectation that draft regulations be released as early in 2024 as possible.

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For more information, please contact:

Andrew Gage | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
604-601-2506, agage@wcel.org