Hundreds of Alberta delegates heading to COP28 expect heavy focus on fossil fuel industry

A strong delegation of Alberta politicians and leaders are heading to Dubai this week for a climate summit that is expected to cast a significant spotlight on the fossil-fuel sector.

COP28, starting Thursday and running until Dec. 12, will bring more than 100 Alberta delegates across dozens of companies and organizations, along with several politicians, including Premier Danielle Smith and Environment and Protected Areas Minister Rebecca Schulz.

The conference is being held in an oil-producing country for the first time in several years. The fossil-fuel industry is often well represented at the annual summit; approximately 600 delegates from the industry attended last year, said Keith Brooks, programs director at Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental advocacy organization.

Questions over whether to call for a complete phaseout of fossil fuels will be on the table this year, which will be in response to the first-ever “global stocktake” — an assessment of the world’s commitments under the Paris agreement.

It also comes amid tense negotiations between Alberta and the federal government over Clean Electricity Regulations (CER) and a potential cap on oil and gas emissions. Smith said Monday she was willing to create Alberta’s own power corporation to defy the CER.

‘The energy transition is accelerating every year’

Alberta and the energy sector’s representation at this year’s summit is a sign the industry “can really see that the energy transition is accelerating every year,” said Janette McKenzie, acting director of oil and gas at the Pembina Institute, a clean-energy think-tank.

While countries aren’t required to announce policy decisions at COP, federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault will likely unveil regulations to further cut methane emissions by the end of the conference, he recently told The Globe and Mail. Ottawa has said legislation on the emissions cap won’t arrive until 2024.

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Kevin Krausert, co-founder and CEO of Avatar Innovations Inc., a Calgary-based innovator that helps the oil sector reduce carbon emissions, said he hopes this year’s summit allows space for conversations around carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS), hydrogen, biofuels and methane emission reductions.

“For Canada, the world is waking up to the realization that renewables, as critical as they are, are not going to get us to net-zero alone,” Krausert said Tuesday, shortly after arriving in Dubai. “So how can we build upon the comparative advantages we have as Canada on our natural resource wealth in another region of the world?”

Krausert will moderate two panels at COP28. He said attracting venture capital in the Middle East to the cleantech sector would help an ailing community that’s been hit with high interest rates and inflation.

Alberta to showcase CCUS developments

Smith, who will host a fireside chat and participate in several panels at the summit, said Tuesday she and Schulz will showcase Alberta’s CCUS developments. She announced Tuesday the new Albertan Carbon Capture Incentive Program (ACCIP), which will cover up to 12 per cent of eligible capital project costs to CCUS projects in Alberta. It comes on the heels of the federal government’s recent commitment to finance investment tax credits for CCUS.

A report last week from the International Energy Agency said limiting warming to 1.5 C by 2050 would require “inconceivable” levels of carbon capture, cautioning against it being the end-all solution to emission-reduction strategies.

Smith said Tuesday she’s skeptical of the IEA’s methodologies, a point she’s previously made in response to its findings.

‘It’s emissions we need to get rid of’

While Guilbeault will lead the Canadian delegation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson have not indicated they’ll travel to Dubai for the conference.

There was much hand-wringing over whether to call for a phaseout of all fossil fuels, including oil and gas, at last year’s summit. Guilbeault at the time didn’t support including oil and gas in the conference’s final pact, saying he’s focused on regulations and policies that curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“Whether it’s abated, phase down, phaseout . . . the cold-hard reality still exists, that the world is using more energy than ever and it’s emissions we need to get rid of,” Krausert said.

Alberta also announced Friday it has reduced emissions in the oil and gas sector by 45 per cent, hitting the target three years ahead of schedule. Methane is 85 per cent more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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