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Oil sands leaders return from climate conference buoyed by growing recognition of the industry’s path to net zero

November 23, 2022

Pathways Alliance leaders returned from COP27 in Egypt, encouraged by the response to ambitious efforts by the oil sands industry to help Canada meet its climate commitments – and confident the country can compete for global investment in major decarbonization projects if it acts urgently to implement the regulatory and co-funding frameworks to support them.

Mark Cameron, vice president of external relations for the Alliance, a group representing Canada’s six largest oil sands producers, says discussions with a diverse mix of delegates from around the world were tough, frank but friendly – as people were initially curious about why members of the oil industry chose to take part in the annual United Nations climate change conference.

“There’s really no way of addressing issues around climate without having people involved in major industries, whether it’s cement or steel or oil and gas, as part of the conversation,” Cameron told CBC’s The House during an interview from the conference in Sharm El Sheikh.

“Once people understood that Pathways Alliance has an actionable plan and is already making progress on its path to net zero, conversations became very constructive and productive,” he said.

Cameron said the Pathways Alliance delegation went into discussions with government officials, industry leaders, environment organizations and innovators acknowledging the industry represents a significant share of Canada’s emissions and therefor must be a major part of the solution in helping Canada meet its climate commitments.

“Our plan going in was to collaborate, contribute and most of all to listen to the views and ideas from others.”

Cameron said it was invaluable to hear firsthand about work happening in other jurisdictions including, for example, discussions with members of U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry’s team.

“The United States has moved aggressively through the Inflation Reduction Act to help incentivize investments in clean technology and many countries are standing up and taking notice.

“We are encouraged that Canada has signalled it understands the need to be on an even playing field with its biggest competitor and we are working constructively with Ottawa to help ensure the right frameworks are in place to do that.”

He said it was important for Canada to bring a diverse delegation of stakeholders to show the country was all in on its emissions reduction efforts, even though some there were mistaken about the industry’s intention to be at COP 27.

“There is a bit of a misperception from some NGOs (non-government organizations) about what we’re doing there, that we’re somehow there to influence the negotiation, reduce climate progress, which is far from the case,” Cameron told the Financial Post.

“We weren’t really involved in anything that was going on in the negotiations, we were basically there to tell our story and learn from others.”

A highlight was a well-attended panel session in the Canada Pavilion hosted by Pathways Alliance during Decarbonization Day at the conference.

The session gave panelists and audience members an opportunity to discuss the Alliance’s multi-phase decarbonization plan, including a proposed carbon capture and storage project in northeastern Alberta that when built will be among the world’s largest –and how governments and indigenous communities had a key role to play in making this project a reality.

The project is a key piece in the Pathways Alliance goals to achieve an annual 22 million tonne CO2 reduction by 2030 and to achieve net zero from production by 2050.

“People were surprised to hear of the extensive work on this and the other technologies we are advancing on our net zero path,” he said, adding the panel included provincial, federal and Indigenous officials.

JP Gladu, special advisor to the First Nations Major Projects Coalition and Pathways Alliance panel member, said the session and subsequent meetings the coalition had with global delegates emphasized the integral role Indigenous communities will play in Canada’s decarbonization efforts.

“First Nations communities recognize that a strong economy is reliant upon a healthy environment and our members are encouraged to be working alongside Pathways Alliance companies to ensure we share in the opportunities and benefits that this world-leading emissions reduction project will bring,” said Gladu, Principal at Mokwateh LP.

Other panelists included Cenovus Energy’s Chief Sustainability Officer Rhona DelFrari, Natural Resources Canada Director General Rachel McCormick, and Emissions Reductions Alberta CEO Justin Riemer.

Cameron said he was encouraged by the federal government and Environment and Climate Change Canada Minister Stephen Guilbeault’s decision to showcase a diverse group of delegates at the Canada Pavilion.

“The Minister clearly understands that achieving Canada’s ambitious goal will require collaboration from all groups and sectors and we are pleased he defended our industry’s right to be part of those discussions at COP27,” said Cameron.

Cameron also noted the strong representation from the province of Alberta, including Environment Minister Sonya Savage and a diverse group that included industry, municipalities, universities and others.

He said that while there continues to be work to do with governments, alignment is building and Pathways Alliance is confident that there is a lot of will for all sides to collaborate to ensure Canada can be a leader in using the technological ingenuity the industry possesses to address climate change.

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