Harper calls oil and gas regs ‘crazy economic policy’

Meanwhile, four provincial governments have pledged to speed up GHG emission reductions at climate conference in Peru.

OTTAWA — Stephen Harper slammed the door on unilaterally regulating Canada’s oil and gas sector Dec. 9 even as four provincial governments, representing almost 80% of Canada’s population, were pledging to go further and faster in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Environment ministers from BC, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec signed what they’re calling a compact in Lima, Peru, where an international climate conference is underway.

They’ve joined with 12 other sub-national governments – ranging from New South Wales in Australia to Scotland – in recognition that their national governments may not be prepared to move with the urgency required.

“All of us are signed on to an agreement to set targets together, to set common disclosures and to build co-operation to get deep reductions,” Glen Murray, Ontario’s minister of environment and climate change, said in an interview from Lima.

Most of the signatories to the compact have agreed to reduce GHG emissions by 80% or more by 2050, and are already meeting or exceeding more current targets.

The deal was signed on the sidelines of a United Nations climate conference where the international community is negotiating a new post-2020 global agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s hoped that agreement will be finalized next December in Paris.

In Ottawa, meanwhile, the prime minister was flatly ruling out regulations to curb Canada’s biggest greenhouse gas emitting sector, seven years after his Conservative government first promised the sector-by-sector, “made-in-Canada” regulatory approach.

“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 US, 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 the Access to Information Act.

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 oil sands – 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.”

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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