Environmental groups and civil society welcome Canada’s oil and gas emissions cap framework, urge swift action and stronger targets

Published On: December 7, 2023 (Climate Action Network Canada – Réseau action climat Canada)

Unceded Algonquin Anishinaabe Territories [OTTAWA] / DUBAI, 7 December 2023:

Environmental groups and civil society across Canada welcome the release of the long-awaited oil and gas emissions cap framework. Published during COP28, where the destructive impacts of fossil fuels are at the heart of global negotiations, Canada’s move to finally limit emissions from the oil and gas industry sends an important signal to the world.

After years of rising emissions from fossil fuel companies – even as emissions declined among other sectors – the framework shows a much-needed recognition that the oil and gas industry will not contribute its fair share to Canada’s national climate efforts if left to its own devices. Canada’s Emissions Reduction Plan Progress Report, also tabled in the House of Commons today, demonstrates the need for quick and decisive action to limit oil and gas emissions. But unless Canada establishes this emissions cap framework with formal regulations that make the cap operational in early 2024, the government’s 2030 climate target will remain out of reach.

“We strongly urge the federal government to quickly implement regulations based on this framework to limit emissions in the oil and gas industry, in order to protect children both in Canada and around the globe.”

Andrea Koehle Jones, Executive Director, The ChariTree Foundation

Today’s announcement is an important victory for civil society and for all Canadians, a large majority of whom support an ambitious cap on emissions from the oil and gas sector. The publication of the framework is the culmination of an all-hands-on-deck effort from civil society, government, and across the political spectrum.

COP28 delegates wearing sporting matching baseball hats with the word “emissions” on the front. “Emission cap” photo from Climate Action Network Canada.

As consultations continue ahead of the draft regulations, Climate Action Network Canada (CAN-Rac) urges the federal government to increase the cap’s ambition level and forgo compliance flexibilities. The oil and gas sector must reduce its emissions further and faster. The International Energy Agency recently stated that, to keep warming below 1.5 degrees, emissions from the fossil fuel industry must be reduced by 60% by 2030.

“By publishing Canada’s framework to cap oil and gas emissions at COP28, Minister Guilbeault is backing his diplomacy with domestic action,” said Caroline Brouillette, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada. “Long-awaited progress on this regulation is the result of tireless efforts by climate champions both within and outside of government. But Canadians and the world cannot afford three more years of the oil and gas industry wreaking havoc. For this regulation to become operational in 2026 is simply unacceptable.”

“We must double down to ensure that draft regulations are tabled by February and that the oil and gas industry finally does its fair share of the national climate effort – starting now. Every day of unregulated emissions from the oil and gas industry means devastating health impacts, more climate catastrophes that destroy homes, and increased cost-of-living for families and communities. Canada’s oil and gas industry’s desperate attempts to avoid regulation at all costs will only intensify — and so must the government’s resolve to side with people and the planet.”

CAN-Rac urges the Government of Canada to finalize the emissions cap regulation immediately to limit the fossil lobby and its political allies’ delaying tactics.

Quotes from international experts –

Harjeet Singh, Head – Global Political Strategy, Climate Action Network International:

“For decades, Canada’s credibility on the world stage has been weakened as it missed climate target after climate target. The emissions cap framework released today finally addresses the root of the problem: the oil and gas industry. We welcome the announcement from Minister Guilbeault, but this framework is still far from representing Canada’s fair share.

“Canada must move faster and farther in tackling the gargantuan climate footprint of its fossil sector. Failing to meet its obligations of climate action, Canada risks exacerbating climate impacts worldwide, particularly in developing countries which will bear the brunt of these consequences.”

Tessa Khan, Executive Director, Uplift:

“Canada is one of just five wealthy Global North countries responsible for over half of the world’s planned oil and gas field developments from now until 2050. Canada’s oil and gas industry has been polluting unchecked for decades, at the cost of people around the world who are suffering heat waves, fires, and floods. The Canadian government’s release of its oil and gas emissions cap framework today sends a strong signal to other major producers and exporters: it’s time to regulate and reign in their rogue polluting industries. Canada must turn this emissions cap framework into real regulations that make fossil fuel companies do their fair share as soon as possible. The world is watching.”

Romain Ioualalen, Global Policy lead, Oil Change International:

“Canada’s plans for fossil fuel expansion threaten the world’s chance for a climate-safe future. The framework released today is a much-needed first step towards regulating the oil and gas industry that’s making vast profits off of climate destruction. It’s clear that the fossil fuel industry won’t take responsibility and cut its emissions voluntarily – so the framework must be implemented without delay, and with greater ambition.”

Quotes from Canadian civil society –

Catherine Abreu, Founder & Executive Director, Destination Zero:

“Canada cannot deliver on its climate commitments as long as its largest and fastest growing source of emissions is left out of Canadian climate policies. With the framework released today, Canada is finally taking a step towards regulating the oil and gas sector so that it pulls its weight in the national effort. It’s clear that Minister Guilbeault had to work hard to push through delays and make this framework happen. His efforts are being recognized here at COP28, where we’re fighting for world leaders to prioritize a safer future over the profits of the fossil fuel CEOs and their shareholders. We know the oil and gas industry will not cut its emissions voluntarily, which is why we need this framework to move to real rules with greater stringency by end of February 2024. We cannot accept any more delays.”

Aly Hyder Ali, Oil and Gas Program Manager, Environmental Defence:

“The emissions cap framework is an important step in ensuring that Canada is holding the oil and gas industry accountable for its ever increasing pollution. Now, the federal government must work to increase the emissions reduction target, remove the loopholes and urgently release the draft regulations. A long delay between the framework and draft regulations will only allow oil and gas companies to continue polluting, increase the chances of further climate catastrophes and further reduce Canada’s chances of meeting its climate targets.”

Tom Green, Senior Climate Policy Adviser, David Suzuki Foundation:

“At last, the federal government is giving itself a new and much needed tool to clamp down on the oil and gas industry’s emissions. We’ll be pushing hard to tighten up the rules to ensure the cap results in actual emissions reductions. We are concerned that the framework allows industry to bypass real emissions reduction through offsets and a decarbonization fund. If industry is allowed to buy its way into compliance, emissions will still go into the atmosphere and accelerate the climate crisis. We urge the federal government to move quickly to translate this framework into regulations so that Canada’s most polluting sector is forced to clean up its act.”

Aaron Cosbey, Senior Associate, International Institute for Sustainable Development:

“We need this cap to tame the beast – upstream oil and gas is the single largest emitter of GHGs in Canada, and still growing in spite of all our current policies. But to rise to that challenge, the version of the cap we actually pass into law will have to be a lot stronger.”

Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Programs Director, Sierra Club Canada:

“At a time when Canadians are struggling to make ends meet, the oil and gas industry has been posting record profits while laying off workers and causing us to miss our climate targets. We also know the fossil fuel industry will do the bare minimum it is required to do through sound regulation and enforcement  – so these regulations need to be ironclad. Our members and supporters have fought hard for this piece of policy and we thank them for that support. We are not done yet but we are one step closer to preventing wildfires and other climate impacts in the future, like those that caused so much destruction in Canada this past summer. But the work is not over, the oil and gas industry must not be allowed to stall this policy as they’ve done repeatedly already.”

Robb Barnes, Climate Program Director at the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment:

“This announcement marks a significant turning point. Canada is the first major fossil fuel-producing country to commit to capping emissions from oil and gas production. We recognize the Canadian government’s leadership on this and urge other countries to follow.

“However, this proposed cap is not enough to protect people’s health. Earlier this week, CAPE revealed that a fair oil and gas emissions cap of 45% below 2005 levels – in line with the broader Canadian target – could prevent 4800 premature deaths in Canada in a decade. This new announcement is less than half of that level, thereby putting lives at undue risk.

“Finally, it needs to be implemented rapidly. Canadians have already waited years for a strong and fair cap; we need to ensure an ambitious cap is passed without delay.”

Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law:

“Given the pressure from those who want to put corporate profits ahead of the safety of our communities and our planet, the fact that the government has unveiled its promised oil and gas emissions cap is a win. But Canada desperately needs to move forward by introducing draft regulations as soon as possible, as well as increasing the cap’s ambition and removing the loopholes that weaken this important first step.”

Kiki Wood, Senior Oil and Gas Campaigner, Stand.earth:

“We welcome today’s long-awaited announcement, since the only way to finally meet our climate targets and avoid worsening impacts like wildfires and flooding is to sharply rein in the pollution produced by oil and gas companies. Canada is the only G7 nation to see its emissions continue to rise after signing the Paris Agreement, and oil and gas is by far the largest reason for this failure. We’re encouraged to see LNG included in the framework announced today, although we’re disappointed that relentless oil & gas lobbying has resulted in loopholes that will let oil & gas companies buy their way into full compliance and a slower timeline to implementation than needed.”

Eric St-Pierre, Executive Director, Trottier Family Foundation:

“We applaud the Federal Government’s decision to implement an emissions cap framework with robust emission reductions. We urge a quick adoption in order to meet our emissions target. We look forward to seeing more details that ensure that ambition is maximized and loopholes are limited.”

Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist, Greenpeace Canada:

“This isn’t yet the ambitious emissions cap we need to set us on a path to the full, fast and fair phase-out of fossil fuels necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The ruthless push by oil lobbyists and provincial premiers who do their bidding for weaker targets and loopholes, if successful, would come at an enormous cost. Extreme weather and wildfires are already disrupting lives and livelihoods, including forcing over 100,000 Canadians from their homes this summer. To be remembered as anything other than climate villains, Canadian oil executives should heed the call of the International Energy Agency to stop fighting the future and make a rapid transition to clean energy.”

Andréanne Brazeau, Climate Policy Analyst, Équiterre:

“We’re happy to finally see the framework of the upcoming regulations on capping greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector. The Canadian government’s determination is noteworthy, given the resistance to any form of regulation from the fossil fuel industry, whose practices of disinformation and greenwashing are supported and amplified by certain provincial governments. In its current form, however, the framework lacks ambition and stringency. There are too many loopholes, including offsets, and it will only come into force in 2026, which is far too late if we want the oil and gas sector to really do its part.”

André-Yanne Parent, Executive director, Climate Reality Project Canada:

“2023 is likely the hottest year on record. Warming is accelerating. Lethal heat waves, floods, wildfires, and more striking from coast, to coast, to coast. The science is clear: We have to act now and, with a cap on greenhouse gas emissions for Canada’s oil and gas sector, we have a framework to make it happen. But there is a big if… if the upcoming regulations are released rapidly and are strong enough to actually reduce emissions and leave no loopholes for the biggest polluters to rely on dangerous false solutions. We won’t be able to greenwash our way out of this crisis, we are expecting relentless regulations that leave no room for error.”

Naolo Charles, Executive Director, Black Environmental Initiative:

“Capping emissions without reducing production is a flawed approach. While any regulation on the oil industry is a step in the right direction, allowing companies to pay for the right to pollute is not a solution that safeguards our communities. This is especially concerning when considering a system that permits polluting industries, such as the nuclear energy sector, to trade offsets with oil companies, which may all be owned by the same influential entities in society.

“If we have to support such a policy, it is imperative to ensure that the funds collected through fines or any chosen mechanism are directed back into institutions controlled by the communities directly affected by pollution. It is crucial to prevent these funds from being channeled into structures that reinvest in technical training for polluting industries, a common practice that defrauds environmental justice communities. For environmental justice groups, the focus is on people and the protection of communities, not on numerical greenhouse gas accounting schemes.”

Brenna Walsh, Senior Energy Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre:

“We are happy to see the federal government come forward with the initial detail on the oil and gas emissions cap. With the hurricanes, wildfires and flooding which have changed our landscape in Atlantic Canada over the last year there is an urgent need to hold the oil and gas sector to account for its emissions, and drive emissions reductions in this sector. To ensure that the oil and gas industry will be doing its fair share, we urge the federal government to tighten up this framework, and move quickly to a regulation.”

Glenn Wright, Saskatchewan Coalition for Sustainable Development:

“The emissions cap is an important regulatory step to address rising emissions from the Oil and Gas sector of the Canadian economy. It is unfortunate that provinces, like Saskatchewan, would rather politicize this issue and weaponize the Canadian constitution rather than cooperate in good faith to address the climate crisis. We need to achieve absolute emissions reductions quickly. As Saskatchewan is an exporter of food, fuel, and fertilizer, we must recognize that we have to pivot to cleaner low-emissions exports otherwise the Saskatchewan export economy will not be sustainable. The emissions cap is an important policy piece and we urge the federal government to release the draft regulations as soon as possible in 2024.”

Andrea Koehle Jones, Executive Director, The ChariTree Foundation:

“We strongly urge the federal government to quickly implement regulations based on this framework to limit emissions in the oil and gas industry, in order to protect children both in Canada and around the globe.”

Dr. Courtney Howard, Global Climate and Health Alliance Vice-Chair and a former president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment:

“Health is the human face of climate change. This summer my community of Yellowknife, along with 70% of the population of the Northwest Territories and the 100 bed hospital where I work, were evacuated due to severe wildfires, with some communities experiencing 3 seasons of smoke. Mother Earth’s vital signs are becoming unstable. Heading into COP28 over 42 million healthcare workers globally issued a call to accelerate the phase out of fossil fuels to protect health and health systems. I’m proud that Canada is the first major fossil fuel producing country to commit to capping emissions from oil and gas emissions. That said, we know that slow CPR doesn’t work. This policy must be implemented immediately and rapidly strengthened.”

Patricia Clermont, Ph.D, Coordinator of the Association québécoise des médecins pour l’environnement (AQME):

“We are reassured that the Canadian government is finally announcing a draft cap-and-trade framework for the oil and gas sector, as we were beginning to fear that this would not happen. However, we remain concerned about the – necessary – speed with which concrete regulations must follow and be put in place, as we cannot be left with draft regulations for another undefined date. We also remain concerned about the insufficient ambition of the targets to be reached and the mechanism by which they will actually be achieved. The efforts made by people and communities must not be wiped out by offsets or credit trading opportunities that would enable polluting industries to continue to hinder vital climate action. At a time when climate change is accelerating more than ever and producing devastating effects on people’s health – and also in the name of planetary health – the Canadian government has a responsibility, also in the name of planetary health, to deliver a credible, effective and rapidly implemented system so that we achieve the most effective climate response possible.”

Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner, Wilderness Committee:

“Canada’s most polluting companies should at least be asked to do at least as much as the rest of society in the fight against climate change. While Canadians are taking action — taking transit, composting, renovating their homes and retooling their businesses — the fossil fuel industry has successfully lobbied for special permission to do less than the rest of us.”

Alan Andrews, Climate Program Director, Ecojustice:

“A strong cap is absolutely essential to plug a major hole in Canada’s climate plan and ensure that we achieve the 2030 target.

“It is disappointing to see that industry lobbying has led to a cap that is weaker than our nation-wide emissions target. This will inevitably mean the rest of the economy will have to take up the slack.

“We are also wary that this is still only a framework: The federal government must move without delay to adopting regulations and close the loopholes that will undermine the cap’s integrity.”

Cathy Orlando, Citizens Climate Lobby Canada:

“We are pleased that the Government of Canada continues to commit to reducing Carbon Emissions. It is clear that burning fossil fuels has to end. We are hopeful that this cap, in combination with pricing carbon, will ensure that our country meets its targets.”

Louise Brownlee, Grand(m)others Act To Save The Planet (GASP):

“GASP has been advocating for a strong emissions cap for the past 4 years. We are pleased to see a framework for the reduction of GHG emissions in Canada – especially during COP 28. We are concerned that CCUS is an unproven, expensive delay tactic from the oil and gas industry. We hope to see the framework strengthened without loopholes early in 2024. This is important for future generations.”


Canada’s farthest-reaching network of organizations working on climate and energy issues, Climate Action Network – Réseau action climat (CAN-Rac) Canada is a coalition of 150 organizations operating from coast to coast to coast. Our membership brings environmental groups together with trade unions, First Nations, social justice, development, health and youth organizations, faith groups and local, grassroots initiatives.

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