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Feds propose to cap oil, gas emissions using industry-specific carbon pricing system

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OTTAWA — The federal government is proposing to use an industry-specific cap-and-trade system or a modified carbon pricing system to set a ceiling for emissions from the oil and gas sector and drive them down almost 40 per cent by the end of this decade.

The two options are contained in a discussion paper Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault will publish Monday. It is the first glimpse Canadians are getting of how the Liberals expect to implement the oil and gas emissions cap promised in last year’s election.

The oil and gas industry accounts for more than one-quarter of Canada’s total emissions — 179 million tonnes in 2020, or about what an average car would emit driving around the equator more than 17 million times.

“We simply cannot ignore the fact that the oil and gas sector is Canada’s biggest emitter,” Guilbeault said in April during a House of Commons committee meeting studying the proposed emissions cap on oil and gas.

What Guilbeault didn’t say then, and what the discussion paper doesn’t say now, is what the specific emissions cap will be. It’s supposed to start at “current levels” — which going by the data that was available when that promise was made would mean 2019 levels, or 203.5 million tonnes.

Background documents and government sources suggest the cap for 2030 will be very close to the one proposed in the new national Emissions Reduction Plan in March — 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.

The oil and gas sector has not had emissions that low since 1992. In the last three decades, as production of gas, conventional oil and oilsands soared, emissions from the sector have risen 83 per cent. Overall emissions in Canada are about 23 per cent higher over the same time period.

Input on the options to manage the cap will be accepted until Sept. 21 with Guilbeault aiming to unveil the final plan early in 2023.

The first proposed option involves a new cap-and-trade system on the oil and gas sector in isolation. The total emissions allowed would be divided into individual allowances which will be allocated to specific companies mainly through an auction.

Companies that don’t buy enough allowances to cover their emissions will have to buy allowance credits from other oil and gas companies that bought more than they need.

The funds raised from the auction would be recycled to programs that help the sector cut emissions.

The second option would modify the industrial carbon price already applied to the oil and gas sector, possibly by hiking the price itself if needed, but with the aim of ensuring the emissions from the oil and gas industry itself fall by limiting the trading of carbon credits to the sector.

Companies can currently reduce the carbon price they pay by buying credits from others that produce less than their emissions limit. The modified plan would allow them only to buy credits from other oil and gas companies, not from other industries.

Most of Canada’s oil and gas producers are already cutting emissions due to other regulations and a desire to become a cleaner, more competitive option for global customers.

That has been the Conservative party’s position on the industry for years — using cleaner Canadian fossil fuels to displace dirtier ones produced elsewhere.

The industry has work to do, particularly on the oil side, where Canada’s heavier oils require more energy to extract from the ground than in places like Saudi Arabia. While oilsands emissions per barrel of oil, known as the emissions intensity, is down about 30 per cent since 1990, it’s still higher than many global competitors.

The Oil Sands Pathway Alliance, with six of the biggest oilsands companies on board, is aiming to get emissions to net zero by 2050, mainly through carbon capture and storage projects that trap greenhouse gases before they go into the atmosphere and then store them back underground.

The alliance, whose member companies account for 95 per cent of oilsands production, released a plan this spring aiming to cut 22 million tonnes of emissions from 2019 levels by 2030.

Company leaders have said they’re not opposed to a cap, but insist it must be realistic and based on consultations with industry about what is feasible. Anything more than that would likely drive production cuts and job losses, they have argued.

But the Alliance and government remain far apart on some fundamental issues, such as determining where current emission levels actually stand. The most recent national inventory report says oilsands production and processing emissions were 83 million tonnes in 2019, but the Alliance pegs the figure at 68 million.

A government official, speaking on background because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said if the cap on emissions for the oil and gas sector comes in higher than the Emissions Reduction Plan, it will force other industries to cut more than their share or Canada won’t meet its 2030 targets.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2022.

 

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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UK’s water provider bans use of hosepipes

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UK's water provider bans use of hosepipes

London, United Kingdom (UK)- Thames Water which supplies water to some parts of the country has said that from next week, anyone who gets their water from the water supplier would have to do away with the use of hosepipes.

According to Thames Water, anyone taken to Court for persistent breaches of restrictions on hosepipe bans including watering a garden, cleaning a vehicle or washing windows, walls, paths, and patios will face a fine of up to £1 000 (US$1 200).

“We have been working around the clock to supply everyone, and customers have been brilliant at saving water where they can but with low rainfall forecast for the coming months, we now need to take the next step in our drought plan,” read a statement from Thames Water.

Welsh Water, Southern Water and South East Water have already imposed hosepipe bans, while several others are set to follow suit.

All around the UK, water levels are struggling following record-breaking heat and historically low rainfall which has since prompted the government to declare a drought.

At a meeting of the National Drought Group on Friday, the government’s Environment Agency said the drought trigger threshold had been met in parts of southwestern, southern, central and eastern parts of the country.

The government said the move to drought status was based on factors such as rainfall, river flows, levels of groundwater as well as reservoirs and their impact on public water supply.

According to the meteorological department, the period from January to June this year saw the least rainfall in England and Wales since 1976 and every month of the year except February has been drier than average. That summer of 1976 saw the use of drastic measures such as roadside standpipes and water rationing.

“We urge everyone to manage the amount of water they are using in this exceptionally dry period,” said National Drought Group chair, Harvey Bradshaw.

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency has warned beachgoers to stay away after sewage alerts across England and Wales following heavy rainfall affecting water quality, especially in the south.

The environmental campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) has collected data that suggests storm sewage discharges have taken place on beaches in Cornwall, Cumbria, Devon, Essex, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Northumberland and Sussex.

With much of the UK in drought, the land has become less able to absorb heavy rainfall, meaning larger than usual quantities reaching drainage channels, which can cause flash floods.

 

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Releasing oilsands tailings into river only one solution being considered: Guilbeault

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Canada’s environment minister says releasing treated oilsands tailings into the environment isn’t the only solution being considered to clean up the massive, toxic ponds.

Steven Guilbeault says that even though his government is developing regulations on how the tailings could be drained into the Athabasca River, other solutions are also under review.

Guilbeault’s comments come as investigators from UNESCO arrive in Alberta to consider threats to Wood Buffalo National Park, which could be placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger.

First Nations and environmental groups worry that the provincial and federal governments have already decided that treating and releasing the water is the way to go.

But Guilbeault says that’s not the case and that any treatment plan would have to be approved by his department.

He says the decision will be made after wide consultation, not just with oilsands companies.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Census data shows French is in danger in Quebec, province’s language minister says

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MONTREAL — Quebec’s minister for the French language says new data from the Canadian census shows that the French language is in danger in the province.

Simon Jolin-Barrette told reporters in Quebec City the province is at a linguistic crossroads and that it’s time to stop the decline of French.

Data released by Statistics Canada today shows that the percentage of Quebec residents who predominantly speak French at home declined to 77.5 per cent in 2021 from 79 per cent in 2016.

The federal statistics agency says the percentage of Quebec residents whose first official language was English rose to 13 per cent in 2021 from 12 per cent in 2016.

Eva Ludvig, the interim president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, an anglophone rights group, says the growth of Quebec’s English-speaking community is good news.

But she says she worries politicians will use the new data to portray her community as a threat ahead of the province’s fall election.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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