Canada to cut subsidies to unabated fossil fuel projects as Colombia supports carbon capture

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau talks with Colombian president Ivan Duque at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

The Canadian government announced this week that it will cut subsidies to oil and gas companies operating outside of Canada by the end of 2022.

This promise is outlined in this joint statement signed by Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and 23 other countries.

The Canadian Press reports: “Bronwen Tucker of Oil Change International said Canada [through Export Development Canada] has for years been one of the world’s top public financiers of fossil fuels, averaging about $13.6 billion a year.”

The National Observer highlights: “Enbridge for instance, received $303 million US from EDC in 2018-19 for activities in the United States [including the controversial Line 3 tar sands pipeline], while Calgary-based Parex was given at least $94.5 million in loans for oil and gas extraction in Colombia that same fiscal year.”

It adds: “The top recipient countries for Canadian fossil fuel financing from 2018 to 2020 were the United States, Mexico, Australia, and Colombia respectively.”

PBI-Colombia accompanies CREDHOS, the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP) and COSPACC, human rights organizations that support communities impacted by EDC-recipient oil and gas companies, including Toronto-based Frontera Energy in San Luis de Palenque, Casanare and Parex in El Diviso, Bajo Simacota.

The caveat to the cut

A key aspect of this promised cut is that it will apply to “unabated” fossil fuel projects.

The National Observer explains: “Unabated fossil fuel projects are those without technology in place to capture greenhouse gas emissions.”

In July, the Colombian government enacted the Energy Transition Law. The country’s Minister of Mines and Energy Diego Mesa says it includes carbon capture.

In January, IHS Markit reported: “While cutting emissions is in sharp focus for the future, the government is not forgetting the existing extractive industry wealth it has been blessed with. Colombia is one of the world’s top five steam coal exporters, with shipments expected to rise in 2021 after falling in 2020, according to IHS Markit data. One way to leverage that mineral wealth is employing carbon capture and storage technology, Mesa said.”

The Colombian government has also backed fracking. Canadian companies Canacol Energy, Parex Resources and Sintana Energy have all recently expressed interest in commercially pursuing fracking in Colombia.

Carbon capture seen as a false solution

Forbes has explained that with carbon capture: “Emitted carbon could be removed through natural means such as planting trees or removing it from the atmosphere through mechanical or chemical interventions.”

Lydia Cardona from GreenLatinos says: “Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are false solutions that perpetuate and exacerbate existing burdens for frontline communities. For Latino/a/x and other disproportionately pollution burdened communities, continued investment in carbon capture technology and subsidies amounts to a continuation of a long history of environmental injustice.”

And Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) says: “Funding for carbon capture technology is a subsidy for the fossil fuel industry.”

He also notes: “Oil, coal and gas will use these funds to build out more pipelines and concentrate fossil fuel pollution on already impacted Indigenous nations and environmental justice communities. Billions of dollars for carbon capture essentially redirects money away from renewable energy like solar and wind. We do not have time and money to waste on more questionable carbon capture infrastructure.”

Furthermore, Nina Lakhani has reported that more than 130 Indigenous youth and Elders from the Americas, who refuse to participate inside the official COP talks, reject false solutions like net zero and carbon markets.

Lakhani writes: “They all bring personal stories about the impact of land loss, water shortages and forced displacement, which they say will get worse if world leaders forge ahead with climate actions such as carbon capture and mass reforestation.”

While the announcement to end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022 is welcomed, there are questions about how this relates to carbon capture and storage technology.

The urgent need also remains for EDC to stop supporting fossil fuel projects in Canada, notably the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline now being built without consent on Wet’suwet’en territories in British Columbia.

On November 5, 2019, PBI accompanied a meeting at the Ottawa office of EDC where Colombian human rights defenders from CREDHOS and the CCALCP legal collective expressed concern about EDC support for oil and gas operations in Colombia, notably Calgary-based Parex Resources.


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