VANCOUVER — The federal government's proposed regulations to reduce fugitive methane emissions from Canada's oil and gas industry mark the beginning of an overdue effort to address this out-of-control problem.
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For the first time, oil and gas companies across the country will be responsible for reducing their methane pollution, including detecting and repairing leaks. Methane is the main ingredient in natural gas/fracked gas and is 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
"The David Suzuki Foundation welcomes these much-needed protections," said Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce. "We need to implement these regulations as quickly as possible given that this problem is so much bigger than we once thought. The industry's carbon footprint is larger than reported, and the regulations released today do not take the latest science into account."
Recent David Suzuki Foundation research revealed that methane emissions in B.C. are at least 2.5 times greater than the industry and federal and B.C. governments acknowledge. Similar current research by the group Environmental Defence suggests that methane emissions in Alberta have also been massively underreported. Accurately measuring the true magnitude of these emissions today will be critical to achieving the federal government's goal of a 45 per cent reduction by 2025.
"Cutting methane emissions is one of easiest and most affordable actions oil and gas companies can take to shrink their own climate change pollution," Bruce said. "Industry has long known about this problem and has the technology to fix it, yet new peer-reviewed science shows it has underreported the magnitude of the problem by more than 250 per cent in the British Columbia. We can't afford to delay action any longer. Industry needs to take responsibility now."
Capturing this gas instead of intentionally venting it or allowing it to leak not only makes sense for the industry that hopes to sell it, but also for strengthening climate action. Since methane only remains in that atmosphere for 12 years — compared to centuries for carbon dioxide — cutting these emissions will have a rapid impact on addressing climate change. It has been estimated that methane alone is responsible for 25 per cent of the observed, human-caused changes to Earth's climate.
"We should ultimately aim for a complete end to these emissions by 2030," Bruce said. "They are needless, inexpensive to fix and have been going on for far too long on a scale we now know is much larger than reported. Until we see the full details of the regulations, we won't be certain how close Canada will be to reaching its 2025 target. This is a pivotal point for the government to not only lead on climate action, but to ensure cleaner, healthier air for all people in Canada."
For more information:
Climate Change & Climate Energy Communications Specialist
David Suzuki Foundation