Climate shocker: Canada aims for carbon credits for fracking natural gas

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      A Green member of Parliament has suggested that the federal government is hoping to use the Paris Agreement to obtain a break on emissions for shipping liquefied natural gas out of the country.

      In Question Period on Friday (June 14), Paul Manly said he was "astounded to learn" that the Trudeau government thinks it can invoke article 6 of the landmark climate pact "to earn carbon credits for exporting fracked gas to Asian markets".

      It was in reference to previous comments by Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi.

      "Does the government not realize that fracked gas has the same carbon footprint as coal?" the recently elected Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP asked.

      Sean Fraser, parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment and climate change, replied that he's aware of article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

      It authorizes "internationally transferred mitigation outcomes to achieve nationally determined contributions". These "shall be voluntary and authorized by participating Parties".

      "Our plan to reduce emissions is not just to displace global emissions by producing more and more oil and gas products in Canada," Fraser said, "but to actually reduce our consumption in Canada as well.

      "We are doing so through over 50 measures, including putting a price on pollution, moving toward 90 percent of our electricity being generated from non-emitting resources by 2030, and making the largest investment in public transit and record investments in efficiency, green technology and others."

      Green MP Paul Manly (with Green Leader Elizabeth May) questions the wisdom of claiming carbon credits for fracking natural gas, given its association with methane releases.

      Proponents of the LNG industry claim that this fuel will replace the use of coal in other countries, reducing overall emissions globally.

      But critics, including Manly, say this overlooks the magnitude of methane emissions associated with fracking natural gas, which is later liquefied and shipped abroad.

      "While carbon dioxide is typically painted as the bad boy of greenhouse gases, methane is roughly 30 times more potent as a heat trapping gas," Science Daily reported in 2014, citing research at Princeton University.

      Hence the claim that fracked gas is just as devastating for the climate as coal.

      Others sharing those concerns also point out that LNG exports might actually displace renewable energy use in Asia.

      One thing is clear: no matter how many fossil fuels are exported from Canada, their use overseas will not be counted in the country's overall emissions under the Paris Agreement.

      That was made clear in a 2017 report by Marc Lee, a senior economist in the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

      In Extracted Carbon: Re-examining Canada's Contribution to Climate Change Through Fossil Fuel Exports, he pointed out that just over half of the carbon extracted in Canada is used for domestic purposes, with the rest exported.

      Overall, Canada's extracted carbon resources rose by 26 percent from 2000 to 2015, according to Lee.

      "A major shortcoming of the Paris Agreement is that countries have committed to reducing emissions within their borders, but not the carbon that is extracted and burned elsewhere," he wrote. "For example, when Canada expands its production of fossil fuels, only the emissions from extraction and processing prior to export are counted in Canada's greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory, not the much larger emissions when those exported fossil fuels are combusted in the United States or Asia."

      The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will result in more downstream greenhouse gas emissions each year than the entire amount generated in B.C.
      Trans Mountain

      To cite one example, a City of Vancouver analysis concluded that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project would result in 71.1 megatonnes of downstream carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per year.

      Because this diluted bitumen will be burned in other countries, its downstream use is not counted as part of Canada's emissions by the federal government.

      This is the case even though each year, they will exceed the entire total of carbon dioxide equivalents—62.3 megatonnes—released in British Columbia in 2016.

      Those are in addition to the 7.7 megatonnes of annual new upstream emissions from the pipeline expansion, as estimated by the city. These upstream emissions will be included in Canada's reported total under the Paris Agreement.