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Canada responsible for ballooning greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel exports: new study

The amount of fossil fuel removed from Canadian soil that ends up in the atmosphere as harmful carbon dioxide has risen dramatically, almost exclusively because of our country’s growing fossil fuel exports, finds a new Corporate Mapping Project study published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Parkland Institute.

Extracted carbon from Canada (fossil fuels extracted and used domestically or exported and combusted elsewhere) increased 26 per cent from 2000 to 2014. In 2015, Canada’s extracted carbon equalled almost 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

"If all producer countries act like Canada by continuing to expand the extraction and export of fossil fuels, we can give up on a limiting global warming to 1.5 to 2°C as envisioned in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change," said CCPA-BC senior economist Marc Lee, author of Extracted Carbon: Re-examining Canada’s Contribution to Climate Change through Fossil Fuel Exports.

"If we look at what we dig not just what we burn domestically, there has been a relentless rise in carbon emissions from Canada," he added.

A major loophole in the Paris Agreement, which especially benefits Canada, means fossil fuels exported to other countries are not counted in our emissions inventory — only those extracted and burned inside our borders.

Therefore, countries like Canada have a powerful incentive to extract fossil fuels now before their value evaporates.

"This 'green paradox' is bad news for the climate," said Lee. "The Paris Agreement is a 'good deal' for Canada because only half of the fossil fuels we extract get counted in our greenhouse gas inventory."

To truly champion climate action, Lee says we must consider the emissions from all of the fossil fuels extracted from Canadian soil annually. He added that plans to increase Canada's exports of fossil fuels, confirmed by recent federal approval of new pipelines and liquefied natural gas projects, contradict the spirit and intentions of the Paris Agreement.

Recommendations in the report include that Canadian climate policy must consider supply-side measures such as rejecting new fossil fuel infrastructure and new leases for exploration and drilling, increasing royalties, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.

"There is still time for Canada to live up to its Paris Agreement commitments. Our exports of fossil fuels do not need to drop to zero immediately, but nor does it make sense to pursue policies that further increase extracted carbon," Lee said.

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For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:

Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Director of Communications, at 613-563-1341 x306 or 613-266-9491

Extracted Carbon: Re-examining Canada’s Contribution to Climate Change through Fossil Fuel Exports was published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Parkland Institute, and the Corporate Mapping Project. 

The Corporate Mapping Project is a research and public engagement initiative investigating the power of the fossil fuel industry in Western Canada. The CMP is jointly led by the University of Victoria, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Parkland Institute. This research was supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

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