DEBATE: The Role of Oil & Gas in Canada’s Emissions Reduction Plan

DEBATE -- The Role of Canadian Oil & Gas in Canada’s Emissions Reduction Plan c - Copy

Canada just announced its aggressive emissions reduction plan to dramatically curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through to 2030, with a goal of up to 45 per cent reductions below 2005 levels by 2030. According to the federal government, the oil and gas sector will have to play an instrumental role in these reductions – reducing its won emissions from around 191 megatonnes down to 110 MT by the end of the decade.

Anti-Canadian oil and gas opponents suggest that everything should be done to reach these goals – and then some – with some saying the energy sector should reduce emissions by up to 60% to prevent 'catastrophic' climate change. However, is shutting down Canada’s responsible and reliable oil and gas sector the right thing to do? And, how would that affect Canadians and the global environment if that were to happen?

The question remains: what exactly is the role of Canadian oil and gas in our national emissions reduction plan?

Mike Smyth, host of The Mike Smyth Show on 980 CKNW out of Vancouver, joins Cody Battershill with Canada Action to discuss why choosing Canada’s oil and gas for future supply is in our best interest.


Or, keep reading for everything said between Cody, Mike and Peter of the Wilderness Committee below, and also be sure to check out some of our other radio events:

Canadian Energy’s Role in Canada’s Emissions Reduction Plan


Mike: We start with Canada's new climate change plan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiling that plan yesterday. It outlines how Canada will cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 45% by the year 2030.

Now, don't worry, we've missed every target so far this time. Now Trudeau says this time it's definite.

They're definitely going to cut these emissions. Now have a listen to what Trudeau had to say in Vancouver yesterday.

Trudeau: It cannot be business as usual when devastating floods wash out highways and farms. It cannot be business as usual when communities are destroyed by wildfires. Lives and livelihoods are on the line.

Mike: Justin Trudeau speaking in Vancouver yesterday. Let's discuss this now.

We got an awesome panel for you, Cody. Battershill is the founder of Canada Action. It's a pro-resource development group in Alberta. Hey, Cody.

Cody: Hey, Mike. Thanks for having me.

Mike: Thanks for being here again.

Dr. Tim Takaro. He's a health sciences professor at Simon Fraser University. He's an environmental activist. He's opposed to pipeline development in BC. Tim, thanks for coming on. Once again.

Tim: Great to be here again, Mike.

Mike: Okay, guys, thank you to both of you being here. I always appreciate having both sides of this on.

Tim, let me go to you first. What did you think of the plan outlined by Trudeau yesterday?

Tim: Well, I think you sort of summed up my sentiments precisely when you did the intro there, Mike. It's great to hear the government talking good talk about emissions reductions.

It remains to be seen what they will actually do. Because, as you point out, the government has never met a climate target it set.

Mike: Do you have any confidence that they'll do it this time?

Tim: Well, I don't unless they stop building new fossil energy infrastructure. All right. The way you reduce reductions is to turn the ship.

And you can talk a lot about having other sectors do their heavy lifting, but again, the oil and gas sector gets off easier than every other sector in the economy. And we can't be building new pipelines when we're trying to go the other direction.

Mike: Okay, I have a feeling Cody is going to disagree with you on that. Cody Battershill, your thoughts.

Cody: Well, Canada has already been a leader in reducing emissions, and we're leading in carbon pricing. We're leading in collaboration and innovation. And the industry doesn't get any recognition.

The industry is Canadians. It's women and men from across the country. We all, as Canadians, benefit. Over a half trillion dollars generated for governments since the year 2000.

We all use oil and gas to stay alive right now. And there's no current technological solution to just flip a switch. If we do not build pipelines, other countries benefit who have higher emissions.

That's why opposing Trans Mountain and opposing LNG development is incredibly wrong, both for all of the Indigenous communities who are very much in favour of those projects and for our commitment to our partners and allies around the world. And having the biggest possible environmental impact. That means more Canadian energy.

Mike: Okay. Trudeau was asked yesterday, how is the oil and gas sector in particular supposed to achieve these aggressive emission reduction targets here over a very short time period without shutting down production of oil and gas in the country?

And here's what he had to say. Have a listen, look at your thoughts. Trudeau here yesterday.

Trudeau: We have spoken extensively with leaders in the oil and gas sector who actually themselves recognize the need to get to net zero by 2050.

The oil and gas sector has laid that out. These are plans that are consistent with that objective that they have themselves laid out.

Mike: Okay, so Cody, Trudeau is saying there that the oil and gas sector that you are a supporter of, this is all the stuff that you guys want. You guys have been asking for this and he's only doing what you guys want. Is that correct?

Cody: There are a lot of great plans, innovation for net zero and for continued emissions reduction. Singling out the industry as some sort of evil or some sort of laggard is just not the case.

And the very same people opposing Canadian oil and gas and asking for the government to do even more on emissions reductions are the same people opposing carbon capture and opposing LNG development which would reduce global emissions.

It does not make sense. We all need to work together.

Mike: Okay. Dr. Tim Takaro, what do you say to that?

Tim: Well, there are a couple of good points here. One is this notion that Canada is somehow leading is really false.

If you look at the Yale Environmental Performance Index, for example, Canada is well behind, 20th overall behind Norway and the United Kingdom. If you look just at climate change component of that index, we're 37. We're even behind the United States.

So we have a long way to go. I certainly would love to see carbon capture and storage work.

Unfortunately, we haven't seen it work and we've been pouring billions of dollars into it without it working.

Mike: Tim, let me ask you this. The point that Cody raised that you're opposed to further fossil fuel development in the country and you've been blocking pipelines and stuff like that.

What do you say to Cody's argument that that is just going to make things worse if we can't export, let's say, natural gas to Asia, that they'll just keep burning more coal over there and the planet's better off with developing our LNG resources here?

What do you say to that argument?

Tim: I say that it's false, that the rest of the world is in fact getting behind the United Nations' call for ending new fossil energy infrastructure and turning the ship around.

Of course, it's not happening overnight, and of course we will have a wind-down period. But during a wind-down period, you don't build new infrastructure. You don't make a plan for a new industry that has a 30 to 40-year lifespan at minimum when you're trying to go the other direction.

Mike: Cody Battershill, what do you say to that?

Cody: First and foremost, on that Yale index, Canada is the leader of the world's top oil reserve countries. So what Tim said is just not the whole story.

Second, the whole world is building pipelines. Coal use is at an all-time high. Countries right now are scrambling to get off of Russian oil and gas.

We have to help families, our allies, our partners around the world. We will have the lowest emission LNG on Earth.

That is something we can be proud of. And as Tim just said, we're not going to get off it overnight.

If Tim wants to talk about shutting down oil and gas, then let's start protesting people driving cars. There are all these other sources of use of oil and gas besides just these pipelines.

The pipelines serve end demand. And getting our responsibly produced oil and gas to global markets helps Canadian families. It helps the global climate. It helps us invest in this transition that will take multiple decades or generations.

The U.S. will still be using oil and gas as their number one source of energy in 2050, according to the EIA. We need to be that supplier.

Mike: All right, welcome back to the show as we continue talking about the Trudeau government's new Climate Action Plan, 270-page plan introduced by the government yesterday to cut emissions aggressively here by 2030.

This is the government's missed every emission target since they've been in power. I don't see any reason to have any confidence that this target will be achieved either.

Trudeau was asked about that yesterday, why they've missed all these targets. Here's what you had to say.

Listen closely here.

Trudeau: We lost ten years on our path to 2030, because for ten years under the Harper conservatives, nothing got done on fighting climate change, on reducing emissions from the oil and gas sector, on preparing for the future that everyone saw clearly was coming. Okay?

Mike: So just in case you were wondering, it's actually it was Stephen Harper's fault.

Cody, Battershill and Dr. Tim Takaro are my guests here. Let's go to your phone calls. Dan on Vancouver Island. Hey, Dan. Go ahead.

Dan: Mike. I have a question for the doctor. And let me have a follow-up, please. Doctor, do emissions respect borders?

Tim: No, of course not.

Dan: And that's part of the problem, right? If they don't respect borders... So we could shut Canada down tomorrow, and China would fill that gap in five days, and all these weather events and floods and fires, they wouldn't stop.

Is that correct?

Tim: Well, everyone in the world recognizes that we're in a climate emergency and we are trying to keep the warming below 1.5 degrees.

So everyone in the world has a responsibility to do what they can to meet those targets. And so really what Canada needs to do is a 60% reduction by 2030, not just 45.

So we have a lot of work to do. This plan is a good start if we actually need it. But if we're going to achieve what the world needs for future generations to have a livable planet, we need to get on it right away and be more serious about our reductions.

Mike: Okay, Dan, thank you for the call. Cody, what do you say to that? Forget about a 45% reduction. Tim says we got to have a 60% reduction by 2030. Go ahead.

Cody: If we're talking about the entire world and our biggest impact, it's developing LNG right now to replace, to displace and replace other forms of energy in Asia and around the world.

And it's just mind-boggling that we hear about how emissions are global and then we want to potentially, all these people want to shut Canada down. It would just impoverish Canadians and do nothing for the global climate.

We can reduce emissions as we have been. We can invest in wind and solar as we have been. I believe we're 9th in the world right now for wind. That's something we should be proud of.

But guess what? We've also got the most responsibly produced oil and natural gas that benefits Indigenous communities and all Canadians underneath our feet.

We all own it. We all benefit from it. We have to get that to the world to, to also have the biggest climate impact.

Mike: Back to the phone lines. Greg on the line in North Vancouver. Hi, Greg. Go ahead.

Greg: Hey. So we have 34 million people, or 32 million people in Canada. Okay. We're not really making a dent in anything here.

We got to work together on the planet to get these other countries that are still burning coal and all these other fuels. Oil is not going anywhere.

You look at California, EV, what do they have? 50% electronic EV cars. How are they getting their power? They're getting it by coal power.

Mike: Tim Takaro, what do you say to that?

Tim: Well, coal is his history. These are last-century fuels and they're being wound down. The idea that fracked methane, so-called natural gas, is a transition fuel is last century.

We have got to be serious about our fossil energy fuel use, and that includes all fossil energies, and all of them need to be wound down.

And if we do not achieve the 1.5 degree increase in temperature, we'll be seeing thousands of people die every year in Canada, like we saw this past summer in British Columbia with 740 deaths from climate.

Mike: Okay, Cody. Go ahead.

Cody: I just got to jump in and say the reality of global energy demand disagrees with Tim.

Coal usage is at an all-time high. While these groups, all these anti-pipeline groups, have been blocking Energy East, Keystone, delaying Trans Mountain, LNG project, global oil and natural gas demand has never been higher.

And this fear-mongering about the future, we can adapt. We can continue to reduce emissions responsibly, but it doesn't mean we just impoverished Canadians.

We shut down Canadian industry so that other countries can benefit. We have to take a middle-road approach.

All of the above.

Mike: Squeeze in one more call. James and Surrey, please. Go quickly. James, go ahead.

James: All right. I just want to say that oil is not going anywhere.

There are all these hypocrites that say it's to shut everything down. They're sitting in their natural gas heated houses. If they're driving an electric car, there is oil in the production and the plastics and the rubbers and everything.

They're on their iPhones. There's oil in production in that, it's just a joke, all this stuff.

Mike: All right, James. Thanks for the call. Tim, what do you say to him? I'll give you guys 20 seconds each year to wrap up. Go ahead, Tim.

Tim: I would just say that, of course, this is not happening overnight, and of course we will be using petroleum products for plastics and other products.

But the idea that we should just put this all on the individuals who are driving their trucks around, or that is a part of it. And this plan is a part of it.

But we have to be serious about changing the direction of our fossil energy production. It's got to go down.

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