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Climate Impacts

Few energy projects pose a larger threat to the climate than Canada's tar sands. Oil sands production emits three to four times more climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions than producing conventional crude oil, making it one of the world's dirtiest forms of fuel. 

Due to more energy intensive extraction processes coming online, it's only going to get worse: climate pollution per barrel has increased 21 per cent since 2010. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the oil industry's expansion plans will commit us to as much as six degrees Celsius of global warming, all but guaranteeing the destabilization of the global climate.

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Tar sands is 3-4 times worse for the climate than conventional oil
Key Issues:
- Industry expansion plans will lead to far greater than 2 degrees of global warming
- Canada's climate performance is the worst in the Western world
Current Status:
There are no meaningful emissions limits on the tar sands industry today

The tar sands are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, which emits more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than either the United States or China. The tar sands are the only reason Canada cannot meet its greenhouse gas-reduction commitments, and why it was the only country to pull out of the Kyoto climate change agreement.

Tar sands emissions have doubled in the past decade, and the industry’s expansion plans will double emissions again this decade, from 48 million tonnes in 2010 to 104 million tonnes in 2020. That’s twice current emissions from Norway, and exceeds the combined emissions from 85 nations.

If you thought that was bad, Alberta has already approved enough tar sands projects to produce climate pollution that exceeds the current combined emissions from 150 nations.

According to International Energy Agency projections, tar sands projects already under construction will supply all the tar sands oil the world can burn if we hope to keep average global warming below two degrees Celsius and avoid catastrophic climate change. But Alberta won’t stop there. Its government has already has approved further expansion to supply more tar sands oil than the world can burn even if we stay on the path to six degrees warming, or “climate catastrophe."

Current regulations do not meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands development. In the short term, more stringent regulations need to be put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To allow Canada to meet its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, the oil and gas sector needs reduce its emissions by 42 per cent by 2020. This will require curtailing tar sands expansion and/or putting a price on carbon emissions of at least $100 per tonne by 2020.

Climate Impacts Updates & Resources

Here’s what we know—and don’t know—about Alberta’s carbon tax

Trevor Tombe | Maclean's - November 23rd 2015

Press Clipping: Months of speculation ended Sunday when Premier Rachel Notley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced a carbon tax is coming to Alberta. Pricing carbon is one of the most sensible policy prescriptions to address greenhouse gas emissions, so this is good news. But, of course the devil is in the details, so we should explore some of those.

Alberta Premier puts a cap on tar sands development


Kenny Bruno | Corporate Ethics International - November 22nd 2015

Blog Post: They said it was all coming out of the ground "anyway." Not so fast. Alberta Premier Notley formally introduced the Alberta climate package today, including a "legislated" 100 megaton annual cap on emissions from the tar sands. 100 MT is still a lot, but remember that industry has planned for twice that, or more. All the smart work, the hard work, and the persistence has led to a watershed moment for the Tar Sands Campaign.

Alberta climate plan - historic day, more to be done


Keith Stewart | Greenpeace Canada - November 22nd 2015

Blog Post: Today is a historic step for the province of Alberta. After too many years of previous provincial governments heading in the wrong direction and ignoring the problem, we applaud Premier Notley for listening to the growing calls of people across the province and the country demanding action on climate change. The measures announced today will start to slow Alberta’s growing emissions, diversify its economy, create jobs, and allow the province to start taking advantage of its tremendous renewable energy potential. These policies are important first steps, but much bigger emission reductions will be needed for Alberta to do its part to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

Alberta’s climate change strategy targets carbon, coal, emissions

November 22nd 2015

Press Clipping: Alberta's climate change strategy includes a tax on carbon, a cap on oilsands emissions, a phasing out of coal-fired electricity and an emphasis on wind power. "Our goal is to become one of the world's most progressive and forward-looking energy producers," said Premier Rachel Notley. "We are turning the page on the mistaken policies of the past, policies that have failed to provide the leadership our province needed."

Guess who has Alberta’s back?


November 22nd 2015

Blog Post: Alberta just announced a major new strategy to fight climate change. Guess who has their back? People from a wide range of backgrounds are lining up and agreeing it's good as good for business as it is for the environment. Here's what key groups are saying:

Emissions from Canada’s oil-sand crude higher than those from U.S. sources

Katherine Bagley | InsideClimate News - November 1st 2015

Press Clipping: Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton voiced support Thursday for a Department of Justice investigation into whether ExxonMobil purposefully misled the American public on climate change. When asked after a town hall event in Berlin, N.H. whether she would call for a federal probe into Exxon, Clinton replied, "Yes, yes, they should. There's a lot of evidence that they misled people."

Alberta’s opportunity: What the international community expects from the province’s climate plan


Anthony Swift | NRDC - October 16th 2015

Press Clipping: After years of being the epicenter of Canada's declining reputation on environment and climate, Alberta has the opportunity to establish itself as a climate leader. The province -- which is known internationally for its environmentally damaging tar sands, rapidly growing carbon emissions and broken climate commitments -- plans to announce a comprehensive climate policy in advance of the international negotiations in Paris later this year. Led by the recently elected New Democratic Party (NDP), Alberta has a real opportunity to demonstrate that it is changing the course on climate.

Alberta climate change advisory panel swamped with hundreds of submissions

Ian Bickis | Canadian Press - October 14th 2015

Press Clipping: Alberta's climate change advisory panel asked — and energy companies, trade associations, unions, think tanks and every-day Albertans answered. The panel received close to 500 submissions following their request for public comment on what the government should consider when drafting its climate change policy. Everyone from climate-change skeptics to diehard greens represented. Suggestions from those in favour of stronger action on climate change included switching all traffic lights to roundabouts to reduce idling, banning motorized lawn mowers and leaf blowers and giving nuclear power a chance. The most common requests, however, centred around more government funding for research, a faster phaseout of coal-fired power plants, more renewables and a price on carbon emissions.