Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will appear at President Biden's climate summit on Thursday with a colossal reputation as a climate change champion.

Justin Trudeau
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

However, one aspect of Canada's economy complicates his record: the country's insistence on increasing oil sands production.

Increase in emission

According to government figures published last week, between Mr. Trudeau's election in 2015 and 2019, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions rose by 1%, amid reductions in other wealthy countries over the same time. Canada is the only member of the Group of Seven whose emissions have increased since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed six years ago.

Officials in Canada insist that Mr. Trudeau's reforms actually need some time to bear fruit. On the other hand, environmentalists argue that Canada can't cut emissions without cutting oil demand from the tar sands.

Despite the number of resources used to produce it, the oil sands, one of the world's biggest oil deposits, are also one of the most polluting. Mr. Trudeau, on the other hand, is unlikely to stop development there.

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Oil Sands

The oil sands are vital to the economy of Alberta's western province. The electoral reaction would be immense if Mr. Trudeau or some other Canadian politician made them redundant.

"There is a gap, at least on the international level, between Canada's climate image and the realities of policy on the ground," said Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, a consortium of around 100 labor, Indigenous, environmental, and religious organizations. "We have to avoid selling ourselves the perhaps comforting, albeit risky, lie that the oil sands will be viable in the future."

According to Tim McMillan, president, and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which serves oil companies, average emissions per barrel of oil from the oil sands have decreased by 21% since 2009 and are expected to continue to decrease.

Trudeau's Climate Action

Mr. Trudeau's contribution to combating climate change is widely acknowledged. This month, Canada raised its carbon price, which provinces would follow or have levied by the federal government, to 40 Canadian dollars per metric ton, with a goal of 170 dollars by the end of the decade. The government has already taken steps toward establishing renewable fuel requirements and reducing methane leaks, a potent climate change gas, and other initiatives.

Canada announced on Monday that it is on target to cut emissions by 36% by 2030, relative to 2005 levels.

Mr. Trudeau's decisions stood in sharp contrast to those of President Donald J. Trump of the United States, who ignored climate change and reversed American efforts to fight it.

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Biden's Climate Plan

(Photo : Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mr. Biden has already declared climate change a priority for his government. He is likely to announce at the summit that the US will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about half by 2030, relative to 2005 levels.

Mr. Trudeau is set to propose a new reduction goal for the same time frame, but few analysts believe he can equal Mr. Biden's reduction.

According to Dale Beugin, vice president of science and analysis at the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, a nonpartisan research organization, the timing could put Canada in a bind.

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