Increased Oil and Gas Production in Canada

Increased Oil and Gas Production in Canada

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Canada Country Manager Diane Szoller

The biggest obstacle impacting 2030 and 2050 targets is increased oil and gas production/expansion of exports. In 2019, greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) were relatively unchanged at 730 Mt CO2 eq, compared to 730 Mt CO2 eq in 2005. Emissions from oil and gas extraction, gas-powered trucks and heavy-duty diesel vehicles continue to climb and be offset by decreases in other sectors. For example, between 1990 and 2019, partial offsets included 34 Mt CO2 eq electricity emissions decrease as coal power decreases and a 20 Mt CO2 eq decrease from heavy industry. In 2019, oil and gas accounted for 191 Mt CO2 eq (26% of total emissions), followed by transport with 186 Mt CO2 eq (25%).

Canada Energy Regulator, projections of increased oil and gas production until 2039 at

Why is this obstacle so important?

Reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050 is Scorecard’s projection of global targets needed to maintain 1.5 degrees C. On April 22, 2021. Prime Minister Trudeau proposed new targets of 40 to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ (CCPA) June report asks the question – how emissions from increased oil and gas production reconcile with emissions-reduction targets and when Canada’s recent HEAHE plan centers on its fossil fuel carbon tax rising to $170 a tonne by 2030 along with other plans and 32-40% targets.

Canada’s latest emissions inventory reports show between 2005 and 2019, Canada has failed to deliver on any previous global commitments to reduce carbon pollution. On June 17, 2019, Canada declared a “climate emergency” but the next day the government approved the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion which it later purchased (400,000T GGEs annually). Other new fossil fuel infrastructure continues to be built sealing Canada into future carbon emissions.

Federal reports show increases in total GGEs between 1990 and 2019 were mostly due to an 87% increase (89 Mt CO2 eq) from the oil and gas sector and a 54% increase (65 Mt CO2 eq) in the transport sector, a result of more freight trucks and passenger light trucks and usage.  GGEs conventional oil production increased by 20%, oil sands by 468%, and natural gas from unconventional sources (i.e., fracking) increased by 54%. Any decline in car and light truck emissions intensity has been a result of fuel switching, efficiency increases, modernization of industrial processes and structural economy changes but is still insufficient to offset emission increases of freight travel which grew by 153% (between 1990 to 2019).

Strategies for Overcoming this Obstacle

Experts show Canada needs to adopt a Climate First plan (carbon pricing reflects continued fossil fuel use) and strengthen the Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, using verifiable results in the phase-out of fossil fuels and caps on heavy emitters. Canada’s cold winters challenge domestic energy use in the foreseeable future from being exclusively renewables. Thus, oil and gas should be retained to meet our transition needs rather than expanding export markets. Canada needs more investments in renewable energy, energy conservation and retrofits, and more clean electricity generation. Future global markets are expected to seek low-carbon energy systems not high-carbon tar sands/oil sands bitumen or a fossil fuel hydrogen strategy.

Canada’s Energy Regulator (CER) forecasts through 2050 show Canada falling short of its emissions-reduction targets unless it cuts oil and gas production to the fullest extent possible and implements building retrofits, more efficient transportation infrastructure, more renewable energy, and other measures. Using CER estimates of existing pipeline export capacity and projections, neither the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Line 3 expansion, nor the Keystone XL pipeline (recently cancelled in the USA) are needed, and developing a LNG export industry in British Columbia (BC) will render its climate plan impossible to achieve despite current BC and federal subsidies for 3 proposed terminals. Conventional oil and gas production is in decline, prospects for growth are in situ bitumen and fracked natural gas, both having higher production emissions than conventional oil and gas.

The need to radically reduce fossil fuel production to meet net-zero targets and end new investment has been recognized recently in the International Energy Agency (May 18) net-zero by 2050 report. The CCPA’s recent June analysis finds that while oil and gas production is increasing, jobs and revenues paid to government are decreasing and the oil and gas sector alone will cause Canada to fail to meet any new proposed targets of a 40% reduction by 2030 or net zero by 2050 if continuing its current path. It also shows Canada already has enough pipeline capacity to transport the oil the Canada Energy Regulator is projecting for export through 2050.

Contact person responsible for coordinating Canada’s climate emissions policy is: 

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Mail: House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Tel: 1 613 995-1225


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