Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store stood up for his country’s use of fossil fuels last month at Climate Week NYC 2023, refusing to commit to a "phase-out" date while saying that there is not yet any alternative for maintaining households, economies, industry, and the poor.
Store went on to explain that changes in oil and natural gas use will have to come from the demand side, not from political decisions weighing down on supply.
For many Canadians, it was a refreshing take to hear from a Western leader. If only Canada – an even greater energy powerhouse – could take a page from Norway’s playbook and stop saying “sorry” for the world-class energy resources it produces, the world would be a much better place.
When Store’s left-centre government was pressured on sustainability upon gaining power two years ago, it made clear it would seek to grow the country’s lucrative oil and natural gas industry while striving to cut carbon emissions.
“The oil and gas sector will be developed, not dismantled,” the coalition said, according to reporting by the BBC .
Norway’s petroleum industry accounts for 40% of its exports and about 14% of its gross domestic product (GDP) .
Canada’s reliance on the oil and natural gas sector isn’t so different. It accounts for a significant share of Canadian prosperity – 7.2% of the national economy and 29% of total exports, according to the latest available figures . The industry is also a massively oversized contributor to the public purse, with more than $1.1 trillion to be generated for Canadian governments between 2000 and 2032.
Now, if either Canada or Norway were to prematurely wind down their petroleum sector as global oil and natural gas consumption levels continue to reach new highs, both would experience similarly devastating economic consequences and forego billions, if not trillions of dollars in future revenues – only to be lost to less responsible producers abroad. Simultaneously, without Canadian and Norwegian energy exports on international markets, many Western nations would increasingly rely on autocratic producers for supplies. One must wonder if sanctions would subsequently be lifted on some of the world’s most abhorrent human rights abusing, energy-producing nations if this were the case.
Canada and Norway have a lot of similarities when it comes to oil and natural gas. But where the two countries diverge on the energy file is quite apparent.
Norwegian leadership defends its position as a major energy exporter, pointing to the great progress it has made on low-emission electricity, electric vehicles, and other sustainability efforts.
Canada, not so much.
Instead of sticking up for its world-class petroleum industry, Canada would rather apologize for providing the world with the stable and reliable energy it needs. Just look to the potentially disastrous economic policies like the looming oil and gas emissions cap that would likely see domestic production levels drop for compliance and reduce Canada’s 1.5% share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by a mere fraction of a per cent.
Canada seems determined to apologize for its tiny contribution to total global GHGs by implementing all economic pain, no environmental gain policies that would likely shift its oil and natural gas market share elsewhere to places with little environmental oversight.
The global environment would be worse off – and not only that, but the world would not be a better, safer place by removing Canadian energy from international markets.
Canada must start balancing concerns about energy security, affordability and sustainability simultaneously. It should look to Norway as inspiration on the oil and natural gas front and stop saying “sorry” for an industry that underpins its economic prowess while providing a considerable share of the world’s energy needs.
Why doesn’t Canada start standing up for its world-class record on emissions reductions, renewable electricity, and other sustainability initiatives, like the Norwegian Prime Minister and many of his predecessors have done?
It's not like Canada is in short supply of facts. For example, did you know:
- Canada currently gets roughly 82% of its electricity supply from non-emission sources like hydro, nuclear, wind and solar
- Emissions from Canada’s oil and natural gas sector peaked in 2015, since dropping 7% despite production levels rising by 16%
- Canadian oil sands greenhouse gas emissions intensities are down 23% since 2009
- Switching 20% of Asia’s coal-fired power plants to responsibly produced Canadian liquefied natural gas (LNG) could save an entire Canada in emissions
- Canadian LNG projects are expected to be some of the lowest-emission facilities of their kind, thanks to the use of renewable hydroelectricity
When countries such as Germany, Japan and South Korea ask for help on the liquefied natural gas (LNG) front, Canada offers hydrogen and critical minerals instead. That's not a bad thing. But what Canada has failed to do for many years is to stand up for itself as one of the most stable, reliable, and sustainable energy suppliers on the planet, and say “yes” to the responsible development of its oil and natural gas resources largely for the benefit of the Western world.
Essentially, Canada has become a bystander on the global energy stage. Instead, how about taking a page from Norway’s energy playbook?
Canada should stop saying “sorry” for playing an incredibly important role as one of the few major democratic energy exporters in the world, and start standing up for the benefits its responsibly produced energy resources bring to local families, Indigenous communities, global energy security and the environment.
1. The New York Times. (2023 September). How We Store Climate Change [Video]. https://www.nytimes.com/video/climate/100000009097779/store-climate-change.html. Date Accessed: October 2023.
2. BBC News. (2023, October 1). Norway's new centre-left government to grow oil and gas sector while cutting emissions. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-58896850. Date Accessed: October 2023.
3. Natural Resources Canada. (2022). Canada's Energy Future 2022 [PDF]. Retrieved from https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2022/rncan-nrcan/M136-1-2022-eng.pdf. Date Accessed: October 2023.
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