Canada Pioneers the Regulation of Industry Methane Emissions

Spotlight Activity: Canada Pioneers the Regulation of Industry Methane Emissions

On April 26, 2018, Canada’s environmental ministry published federal methane regulations after consulting extensively with the provinces, territories, industry, environmental organizations and Indigenous peoples. Canada is the first country to commit to industry methane emission regulations, an important shift in climate protection. The David Suzuki Foundation believes these new regulations will help uphold the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change Paris Agreement targets, in which Canada committed to cutting oil and gas industry methane pollution by 40 to 45% over the next eight years. This represents a significant contribution to holding industry accountable for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

Scientists estimate methane is responsible for 25% of already observed disruption to the Earth’s climate, so reducing it is prioritized as a top global climate solution. The International Energy Agency reports that the oil and gas industry emits about 76 million tonnes of methane worldwide every year, 75% which can be easily reduced, and about 50% could be reduced at no net cost, or even for a profit, because industry can sell the captured gas. Drew Nelson, a leading world expert on methane from the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund, states ‘If every country around the world followed Canada’s methane reduction lead, it would have the climate impact of closing one-third of the world’s coal-fired electricity plants.’

Methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases (GHG), 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. In the short term – 20 years after its release, it can be up to 84 times more potent. Methane emissions make up about 15% (2014) of Canada’s total GHG emissions. The oil and gas sector contributed 44% of Canada’s methane emissions in 2014, 91% of these emissions were produced in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The remainder of Canada’s methane emissions comes largely from agriculture and solid waste disposal (e.g. landfills).

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Status: Right Direction

For these new regulations to be effective, the federal government must hold provinces and territories accountable for reaching or exceeding Canada’s benchmark. Canada must also track actual production and regulatory impact. British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan have already implemented measures to reduce emissions from oil and gas operations.

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    Cam Carruthers
    Executive Director, Oil, Gas and Alternative Energy Division Energy and Transportation Directorate, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Environment and Climate Change Canada
    351 Saint-Joseph Boulevard, Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H3

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