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The Future of Canada’s Oil Sands in an Emissions Constrained World

The Future of Canada’s Oil Sands in an Emissions Constrained World

March 16, 2016

What do Canada's international climate commitments mean for the oil sands?

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With the Paris Agreement signed at COP21 this past December, the ink is now dry on an accord that binds hundreds of countries to reducing emissions to limit the global temperature increase to below two degrees Celsius. Our three panelists came together for a discussion on the economics, politics, and risks associated with Canada's oil sands in light of the Paris Agreement.

Jeff Rubin touched on the politics of Canada’s climate policies and stated that PM Trudeau and Premier Notley are working to clean up Canada’s international image in regard to energy sector development. Despite this, the high costs of oil sands extraction are a prime barrier to development and Rubin expects demand for oil from importing countries to wane as they impose domestic climate policies. He stated that the US shale oil revolution was also playing a major role in terms of a supply glut and that there is no economic case for new pipelines in Canada at the present time.

Dermot Foley highlighted that the financial risks associated with oil sands development are getting more attention among investors. These risks include incoming domestic and international climate policies as well as the fact that companies are increasingly being scrutinized on data and transparency. Other risks include substitution risks, as alternatives to oil come online.

Karen Mahon described her experience working on Alberta’s new 
climate policy with industry and government; the outcome was the result of dialogue between multiple actors affiliated with the oil sands. She stated that a cap on emissions means that there is no case for two new pipelines to be built in Canada. Oil prices aren’t expected to rise unless there is serious new unrest in the Middle East. Karen also described how Canada was a key driver towards limiting future temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Panelists: 
-- Jeff Rubin, Senior Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation
-- Dermot Foley, CIM, Manager ESG Analysis, Vancity
-- Karen Mahon, Canadian Director, ForestEthics
-- Moderated by Michael Small, Executive Director, Carbon Talks

This event was produced in partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation and the Centre for International Governance Innovation, and recorded thanks to the support of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.

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