Canada earns high praise for climate leadership from IEA
The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) heaped high praise on Canada January 13 with the release of a new in-depth review of the country’s energy policies.
Since the IEA’s last review in 2015 – prior to Justin Trudeau’s election as prime minister – Canada has embarked on an ambitious transformation of its energy system, not always with broad support from Canadians. But its domestic and international climate commitments, including a target to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40-45% from 2005 by 2030 and a commitment to net zero by 2050, resonate with the IEA.
“Canada has shown impressive leadership, both at home and abroad, on clean and equitable energy transitions,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said as he released the report in Paris alongside Canadian energy minister Jonathan Wilkinson. “Canada’s efforts to reduce emissions – of both carbon dioxide and methane – from its oil and gas production can help ensure its continued place as a reliable supplier of energy to the world.”
Although the emissions intensity from Canada’s oil and gas sector has declined in recent years, a 30% increase in energy production – largely from crude oil and natural gas – still eaves the sector as a major source of emissions, contributing about a quarter of the country’s 730mn mt of GHG emissions in 2019.
“Along with strong action to curb methane emissions, improving the rate of energy technology innovation will be essential for the deep decarbonisation that is needed in oil and gas production,” the IEA says. “Canada is actively advancing innovation in a number of key fields, including carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), clean hydrogen and small modular reactors, with a view to serving as a supplier of energy and climate solutions to the world.”
The IEA’s report attributes Canada’s lower emissions intensity to the oil and gas sector’s large investments in clean technology and environmental protection. The sector has been the source of 64% of all energy research and development spending – averaging C$1bn/yr over the decade to 2017 – and in 2018 it spent C$3.6bn on environmental protection.
“This represents, by far, the largest environmental protection expenditure of any sector, representing 37% of total environmental protection expenditures made by businesses in Canada,” the report says. “Canadian oil and natural gas producers are leveraging their improving environmental, social and governance performance and Canada’s stringent environmental regulations to build a global competitive advantage as countries’ interests in cleaner fuels and investors’ interests in the environmental sustainability of their investments grow.”