Oil Sands Group Scrubs Website Over Canada ‘Greenwashing’ Law

An industry group promoting the environmental credentials of Canada’s oil sands sector has removed all its online materials after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government passed a law that could levy major fines for so-called “greenwashing.”

Bloomberg
First Published20 Jun 2024, 11:37 PM IST
Oil Sands Group Scrubs Website Over Canada ‘Greenwashing’ Law
Oil Sands Group Scrubs Website Over Canada ‘Greenwashing’ Law

(Bloomberg) -- An industry group promoting the environmental credentials of Canada’s oil sands sector has removed all its online materials after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government passed a law that could levy major fines for so-called “greenwashing.”

Pathways Alliance, an umbrella organization of major Canadian companies with oil sands operations, scrubbed its website and social media feeds on Wednesday after the law known as Bill C-59 passed its final vote in Parliament. 

Bill C-59 “will create significant uncertainty for Canadian companies that want to communicate publicly about the work they are doing to improve their environmental performance, including to address climate change,” said a statement posted to the group’s website.

“With uncertainty on how the new law will be interpreted and applied, any clarity the Competition Bureau can provide through specific guidance may help direct our communications approach in the future.”

The law creates an addition under Canada’s competition act addressing deceptive marketing practices. In effect, a company could be taken to a tribunal or court if it makes claims about its environmental performance that can’t be backed up by “internationally recognized methodology,” a vague phrase that has come under heavy criticism from oil companies and Alberta’s government.

Kendall Dilling, Pathways’ president, said the organization was preparing a statement further explaining its move.

The group includes Canada’s largest oil sands producers including Cenovus Energy Inc., Suncor Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Ltd., MEG Energy Corp. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Pathways was formed as the industry that produces some of the highest carbon-emitting crude oil in the world came under pressure to address its impact on climate change.

Pathways plans to invest C$16.3 billion ($12 billion) in a carbon capture and storage system to reduce emissions by 22 million metric tons by 2030 with the goal of becoming a net-zero emitter by 2050. 

Most of the reductions initially would come from capturing emissions from their oilsands facilities and transporting them down a pipeline  to the Cold Lake region of central Alberta for sequestration underground. But, further into the future, Pathways hasn’t fully explained how net zero would be achieved.

The law came about through an amendment that was inserted into Bill C-59 relatively late in the parliamentary process. It was backed by Trudeau’s Liberal Party along with two opposition parties, the New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois.

The amendment covers claims around a business activity on “mitigating the environmental and ecological causes or effects of climate change that is not based on adequate and proper substantiation in accordance with internationally recognized methodology.”

During a House of Commons committee meeting, Liberal lawmaker Patrick Weiler explained how the new language might work in practice.

“To give you an example, a company may say that they are on track to net-zero emissions by a certain year but not have done that, and that can be a form of greenwashing,” Weiler said.

A few weeks later, at a Senate committee reviewing the bill, a government official said “a number of industry stakeholders” had started expressing concerns about the new language and how it would be interpreted.

Samir Chhabra, a policy official with the government’s Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, told senators there will eventually be guidance coming from the Competition Bureau on how the new clause would be interpreted.

“I would expect that the bureau would take some time to engage on what they would interpret as an ‘internationally recognized methodology,’” Chhabra said, adding that at this point it is “an undefined term.”

The language remained in the bill, which will imminently be signed into law.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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First Published:20 Jun 2024, 11:37 PM IST
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