Canada: Canada & U.S. Announce Cooperation To Reduce Methane Emissions From Oil And Gas Sector And Enhance Clean Energy Development

Last Updated: March 16 2016
Article by ZoŽ Thoms

One of the first announcements out of the Prime Minister Trudeau's U.S. state visit was a joint statement from the PM and President Obama on climate, energy and arctic leadership. In the Joint Statement, the countries agree in broad terms to work together to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change. The leaders also set out specific commitments to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and to cooperate on clean energy development.

Reducing Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Sector

Methane is one of the most potent GHGs contributing to global warming. The oil and gas industry is the largest man-made emitter of methane after agriculture. Methane released from oil and natural gas systems represent almost half of Canada's total methane emissions. Under the joint initiative, Canada and the U.S. agree to reduce methane emissions by 40 Ė 45% below 2012 levels by 2025 from the oil and gas sector. Both countries commit to develop regulations to address methane emissions. Environment and Climate Change Canada will publish an initial phase of Canada's proposed regulations by early 2017. No specific date is set for the U.S. regulations.

Both countries have also jointly endorsed the World Bank's Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 Initiative and agreed to report annually on their progress. During oil production, gas is produced together with the oil. Often the gas is captured and used. However, some of the gas is flared or burned because of technical, regulatory or economic constraints. The World Bank estimates that gas flaring in oil production around the globe burns about 140 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually and causes more than 200 million tons of CO2 to be emitted into the atmosphere. The Zero Flaring by 2030 Initiative brings governments, oil companies and development institutions together to cooperate to eliminate routine flaring by 2030. Alberta already has flaring regulations in place which have contributed to a reduction in the amount of natural gas flared by 63% between 1996 and 2014. British Columbia has enacted regulations to eliminate routine flaring by 2016. Saskatchewan has also developed regulations and directives to reduce routine flaring.

Cooperation on Clean Energy Development

Recognizing ongoing cooperative arrangements between Canada and the U.S., the leaders reaffirm their commitment to work together "to strengthen North American energy security, phase out fossil fuel subsidies, accelerate clean energy development to address climate change and to foster sustainable energy development and economic growth." Specific commitments include to:

  • Jointly study, identify and implement options for the integration of renewables on the countries' interconnected grids;
  • Align and improve appliance and equipment efficiency standards by 2020 and expand cooperation on the ENERGY STAR program;
  • Strengthen collaboration on clean energy R&D for: reducing methane emissions; improving electrical grids; accelerating electrical vehicle development and integration; unconventional oil and gas; carbon capture, use and storage; and new, cutting-edge technologies;
  • Partner to lead mulit-lateral efforts such as Mission Innovation and the Clean Energy Ministerial and its initiatives; and
  • Develop a joint U.S.-Canadian strategy for strengthening the security and resilience of the North American electricity grid, including against the growing threat from cyber-attacks and climate change impacts.

The Joint Statement affirms that both countries will continue to respect and promote the rights of Indigenous peoples in all climate change decision making and emphasizes the importance of the U.S. and Canada's cooperation with their NAFTA partner, Mexico, on climate and energy action. On that point, the PM is expected to announce that Canada will host President Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in June for the Three Amigos Summit. Given the recent NAFTA clean-energy deal, climate change and clean energy are certain to be on the agenda.

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