Prime Minister Stephen Harper has slammed the door on regulating Canada’s oil and gas sector, calling it a “crazy economic policy” under current global oil prices.
His comments in the House of Commons come as international talks are underway in Lima, Peru, in an effort to reach a new post-2020 global agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Harper was emphatic that Canada will not move unilaterally to curb fast-rising emissions from Alberta’s oilsands.
“Frankly, Mr. Speaker, under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector it would be crazy, it would be crazy economic policy to do unilateral penalties on that sector. We’re clearly not going to do that,” Harper told the House as Conservative MPs roared their approval.
“In fact, nobody in the world is regulating their oil and gas sector. I’d be delighted if they did. Canada will be there with them.”
An Environment Canada briefing memo revealed last month by the Globe and Mail shows that the United States, in fact, placed what were called “significant” limits on its oil and gas sector in 2012.
“For oil and gas, recent air pollution regulations are expected to result in significant GHG reduction co-benefits, comparable to the reductions that would result from the approach being developed for this sector in Canada,” states the June 2013 memo obtained by Greenpeace under an Access to Information request.
The Conservative government has been promising to regulate the oil and gas sector since 2007 as part of its sector-by-sector approach to curbing emissions, an approach the government calls a made-in-Canada plan.
Harper was responding to questions about Canada’s poor record in meeting its previous Copenhagen emissions targets, which a government report this week showed are far off track.
The Environment Canada report shows that increasing GHG emissions from the oil and gas sector — principally the oilsands — will almost completely offset major reductions in the electricity sector by the year 2020.
In fact, the report says Canadian emission reductions flatlined over 2010, 2011 and 2012 and are set to begin rising again in absolute terms to 2020.
Nonetheless, the prime minister maintains his government is cutting emissions.
“Our commitment to Canadians is that we are going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while preserving, protecting and growing Canadian jobs,” Harper told the Commons.
“That’s our commitment, that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Harper’s comments came at almost the same moment his minister for the environment, Leona Aglukkaq, was speaking to the Lima conference.
“Our record speaks for itself,” Aglukkaq told the gathering. “We have shown that it is possible to protect the environment while supporting economic growth.”
Aglukkaq noted that as the country looks beyond 2020, it is depending heavily on provinces and territories, “who hold many levers for taking substantive and innovative action on climate change.”
“They have been an important part of Canada’s progress and I expect their actions will be an important part of Canada’s contribution under a new international climate agreement,” said the minister.
Earlier Tuesday on the sidelines of the Lima conference, four provinces representing almost 80 per cent of Canada’s population signed an international agreement among sub-national governments to combat climate change.
Environment ministers from British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec joined with 12 other sub-national governments — ranging from New South Wales in Australia to Scotland — to form a group that will present the results of a new pilot program on emissions reporting and climate change action.