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Chrystia Freeland

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks during a press conference in Ottawa on October 26, 2021. (Photo: Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands of Canadians Call on Government to Scrap Carbon Capture Tax Credit

The scheme, said one campaigner, "is being used as a Trojan horse by oil and gas executives to continue, and even expand, fossil fuel production."

Jessica Corbett

"Magical thinking isn't going to solve the climate crisis."

"There is no fixing fossil fuels, we need to ditch them to protect our climate."

That's what Dylan Penner, a climate and social justice campaigner with the Council of Canadians, said in a statement Monday as advocacy organizations revealed that 31,512 people across Canada are calling on the federal government to scrap a proposed carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) tax credit expected in the upcoming budget.

Referencing The Lord of the Rings, Penner warned that "doubling down on CCUS instead of cutting downstream emissions from fossil fuels extracted in Canada is like trying to wield the One Ring instead of destroying it in Mount Doom. Spoiler warning: that approach doesn't end well."

The signatures were collected by the Council of Canadians as well as Environmental Defense, Leadnow, and Stand.earth. Their demands are directed at Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is also minister of finance.

A December 2021 briefing from Environmental Defense points out that "to date, CCUS has a track record of over-promising and under-delivering. The vast majority of projects never get off the ground. The technology remains riddled with problems, unproven at scale, and prohibitively expensive."

As the document details:

Despite five decades of research and tens of billions of dollars in subsidies globally, the current scale of CCUS is minute compared to the scale that would be required. Current global carbon capture capacity is 39 [megatonnes] Mt, or about 0.1% of annual emissions from fossil fuels. For CCS to play a significant role in achieving the global Paris climate agreement goal, gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 would need to be captured and permanently stored.

A 2021 study found that more than 80% of the CCS projects attempted in the U.S. have ended in failure. One of Canada's flagship CCS projects, Boundary Dam 3, initially promised a capture rate of 90%. It never reached that rate, so SaskPower eventually lowered its expectations to 65%—a target the facility still regularly fails to meet.

"Carbon capture is being used as a Trojan horse by oil and gas executives to continue, and even expand, fossil fuel production," Julia Levin, the group's senior Climate and Energy Program manager, said Monday. "It's a dangerous distraction driven by the same polluters who created the climate emergency."

"We no longer have time for incremental emission reductions that aren't aligned with a pathway to zero emissions," she added. "There is no fixing fossil fuels, we need to ditch them to protect our climate."

Advocacy organizations and other experts around the world have recently issued similar warnings about "false solutions" such as CCUS.

In January, more than 400 academics, energy system modelers, and scientists sent a letter to Freeland, Wilkinson, and Steven Guilbeault—Canada's minister of environment and climate change—to express their concerns about the anticipated "new fossil fuel subsidy," highlighting that "as well as undermining government efforts to reach net-zero by 2050, the introduction of this tax credit would contradict the promise made by your government to Canadians during the election period to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies by 2023 as well as our international commitments under the Paris agreement."

During  the COP26 summit in Scotland late last year for parties to the Paris agreement, over 700 groups told governments and global institutions that to effectively combat the climate emergency, "we need real plans, real solutions, real finance, and real zero for an urgent, just transition."

That open letter came a few months after more than 500 organizations urged U.S. President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and other key figures in both countries to reject carbon capture schemes that endanger frontline communities and are used by polluters "to justify business-as-usual operations."

Noting that later this month, the Trudeau government will unveil "its plan for how Canada will cut emissions to achieve their net-zero targets by 2050," Canada's National Post reported last week that "it is expected that details on the tax credit will follow in the federal budget, presumably in early April."

"Here's a real climate solution: Stop giving public money to the richest polluters on the planet."

According to the newspaper, "The Business Council of Canada, comprised of chief executives of major oil and gas players, such as Imperial Oil, Suncor, Shell, and Enbridge, told the National Post that a 50% tax credit is the 'the minimum that would be needed' but 75% 'would certainly increase the incentive.'"

Leadnow campaigner Jesse Whattam declared Monday that "pumping billions of public money into CCUS basically amounts to a blank check to oil and gas companies to continue fossil fuel production and expansion."

"In a climate emergency, it's irresponsible—especially when we know what the answer to solving the climate crisis actually is: funding a rapid transition off of fossil fuels and creating good sustainable jobs for all," Whattam added.

Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Program director for Stand.earth, also called for investing in a clean energy future rather than prolonging reliance on oil and gas.

"Here's a real climate solution: Stop giving public money to the richest polluters on the planet," said Biggs. "Instead of bankrolling oil and gas companies to develop CCUS, the government should finance proven solutions which will replace fossil fuels with renewables and create sustainable jobs."


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