The BIG GRAB series: Alberta's oil sands play dirty

As ordinary Canadians dig deep to ease their carbon footprint, Alberta's oil-sands pollution wipes out their sacrifice.

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Canada is struggling to build low-carbon prosperity because we lack a comprehensive national plan for how we will fairly divide our economy’s limited CO2 pie.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has committed Canada to cut our CO2 pollution by 17 per cent from 2005 levels, a target formally linked to actions in the U.S. The U.S. is now well ahead of us.

This article explores Environment Canada reports showing that Stephen Harper, despite being in power for all of the five years covered by the carbon pledge, has announced plans to meet just 13 per cent of this commitment. And for the fastest growing source of Canadian CO2 pollution, the Alberta oil sands, his federal government has announced no plan at all.

In the absence of a plan, unchecked oil sands corporations are grabbing huge slices of the CO2 pie from other Canadian businesses and families and transferring them into the Alberta economy for their industry to under-perform with. By refusing to pay their own way, the oil sands are creating an unfair provincial carbon transfer scheme. It is pitting the one region of Canadians against the others. (more...)



Like son, like father. As our eighth article shows, the oil sands aren’t the only Albertans scoring own goals in Team Canada’s net.

Polls shows that most Canadians want to help meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s commitment to cut our CO2 pollution. In fact, the data shows that most are already acting in ways that are cutting CO2 pollution.

According to the latest greenhouse gas inventory, from 2005 through 2008 all provinces outside Alberta combined to cut CO2 by 10 million tonnes (Mt) a year. A good start in the right direction. But Alberta meanwhile increased their climate pollution by even more: 13 Mt. Oops.

Environment Canada says all the rest of the Canadian economy is on track to make 65 Mt in cuts by 2020. But it also says the oil sands corporations have plans to increase their pollution by even more: 78 Mt. Oops again.

Did you know that Albertans have a bigger climate pollution footprint than the people of any nation on earth? Or that Alberta’s economy generates three times less wealth per tCO2 than the rest of Canada’s economy?

“Scoring Own Goals” documents how the unrelenting climate pollution growth of Alberta and its oil sands industry is wiping out efforts by the rest of Canada to build prosperity in a lower carbon future. Neither Alberta nor its oil sands are paying for the added burden they are saddling the rest of Canadians with. Not only are they our worst scoring line but they are also shooting on Team Canada’s own net.

Is our Prime Minister Stephen Harper the coach for all of Team Canada or not? If he is, what kind of game plan is this? (more...)



The Big Grab Series ends with a look at several existing made-in-Canada solutions that could be expanded to ensure all Canadians do their fair share and that all Canadians get a decent shot at thriving in the emerging lower-carbon economy. We could:

  • expand the Harper government’s sector-by-sector approach to cover enough emissions;
  • expand Canada’s existing cap & trade alliance to cover all provinces;
  • and/or expand BC’s pioneering three year old carbon tax to be nationwide.

We also present one big bold idea that few talk about today, but for many billions of reasons many will wish they had adopted when they had the chance. 

Canada needs and deserves the protection of a comprehensive national climate pollution strategy that explains just who needs to cut CO2, who doesn’t and who will pay for it.

Regardless of which option Canadians choose, until a fair and comprehensive plan is in place, Alberta and its oil sands need to pull in their elbows and stop grabbing other Canadians’ fair share. They need to start paying their own way and stop dragging the rest of us Canadians into an economic tar pit.

Canada’s future prosperity depends upon it. (more...)

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