Shell backpedals on tar sands project as oil industry falls from grace

Intro

Royal Dutch Shell is the latest major oil company to succumb to surmounting public pressure and pull out of an Alberta tar sands project. Citing cost-cutting measures, low global oil prices, and lack of infrastructure, the Dutch oil giant scrapped the Carmon Creek venture due to too many “uncertainties.” Support for such volatile commodities is swiftly weaning from investors, with third quarter earnings on crude expected to be at their worst since the 2009 financial crisis. The Shell proposal, which would have extracted 80,000 barrels of crude from the tar sands, was also one of many highly emitting projects subject to public scrutiny for environmental impacts. Driven by citizen mobilization efforts, many projects have come to a halt in Canada, with no new pipelines being built since 2010 despite heavy federal backing under the Harper administration.

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Key Points

  • Leading on climate and growing tar sands cannot be mutually exclusive. While on the campaign trail, Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau expressed intentions to step up for the climate on behalf of Canada during the UN meetings in Paris this December. Canada is currently ranked among the world’s top 10 largest emitters, with Alberta — the extraction site for Canada’s tar sands — accountable for 73 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emission growth since 1990. Pressure is now on Trudeau to show that Canada is ready to be a real leader in the global transition, and move away from all tar sands-driven projects.
  • Climate change and the environment are top issues for Canadians from all walks of life. A diverse coalition of more than 25,000 people from across Canada assembled in Quebec this spring demanding climate protection from their leaders. 10,000 others echoed the demands for jobs, justice and the climate to be at the forefront of the political agenda, and even more people plan to gather next week for a Climate Welcome sit-in at the Prime Minister’s new residence to spell out their demands. Businesses, environmental groups and First Nations all see value in building a low carbon economy.
  • A renewables-only future is within Canada’s reach — if there is political will. Experts agree — Canada can switch to 100 percent renewable energy sources for its electricity within two decades and eliminate at least 80 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions within 35 years. It is on the basis of this potential that NGOs are calling on Canada to commit to cutting carbon pollution by at least one third by 2025 and to commit to up to $4 billion annually in international climate finance by 2020.

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