As Prime Minister Trudeau reveals his ‘net-zero’ plan for 2050, it is clear that Canada is still very much reliant on its oil industry. The new bill requires Canada to meet multiple targets to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, one of the aims of the internationally-signed Paris climate agreement. However, critics say the country has already failed to meet its targets over the last decade, making this plan overly ambitious.
In addition, Trudeau has failed to provide the required five-year targets or to clarify how Canada will meet the goal outlined in the bill. This calls into question its validity as previous Prime Minister Stephen Harper was forced to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol for falling behind on climate change targets, implying a potential penalty of billions.
While there has been significant pressure from international institutions and activists to go green, Canada depends heavily on its oil and gas industries to support its economy and provide hundreds of thousands of jobs. Canada’s oil-producing regions, therefore, see going green as a threat to the economy.
While the government has been slow to progress on its green goals, private energy companies are making their own investments to keep up with global trends. Oil and gas geologist Kirsten Marcia, president and CEO of Deep Earth Energy Production (DEEP) explains, "Here's the irony that I love… I love the fact that we wouldn't even know that this wonderful clean geothermal energy resource existed if it weren't for the oil and gas industry exploring for fossil fuels.” While the government promises to drive the country towards renewables, it’s the oil and gas industry that continues to make innovative developments and expand their trajectories.
Canada is the fourth-largest oil producer in the world, churning out an average of 5.5 million bpd in 2019. It is also the third-largest exporter of oil in the world, making the industry vital for global consumption.
However, the country has been hit hard by recent cuts in the energy sector. With 37 percent of Canada’s oil and gas companies reporting permanent layoffs, in reaction to the pandemic-driven oil demand drop, and 43,000 job losses in the second quarter, oil-producing regions are struggling to recover.
Despite the country’s reliance on its oil industry, the Canada Energy Regulator expects a more aggressive shift away from oil and gas to meet net-zero targets. At its present rate, oil and gas are expected to make up around two-thirds of energy sources in the next thirty years. Some new policies to curb this trend could include higher carbon taxes and reduced taxes for renewable energy producers. This would hit the energy sector hard, leading to greater job losses and an initial blow to the economy before renewables are developed to the level where they could replace fossil fuels.
The outlook is not all bleak though as the organization that represents Canadian drilling contractors expects a 14 percent increase in the number of oil and gas wells drilled in Canada in 2021. Around 3,771 wells are expected to be drilled in 2021, up by 475 from 2020. This could help Canada bounce back from its pandemic slump. However, Trudeau will have to consider how to move forward with his net-zero policy if he wants to stabilize the economy and employment of the country’s oil regions.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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