Oilsands creating financial risk?
An international group of ethical funds with investments in Alberta’s oilsands is concerned the industry’s environmental performance could be creating financial risk.
“We recognize the economic significance of the resource,” the group says in a statement to be released Monday.
“But (we) are concerned that the current approach to development, particularly the management of the environmental and social impacts, threatens the long-term viability of the oilsands as an investment.”
The statement is signed by 49 funds.
Some are controlled by labour and church groups, such as the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Labour Congress.
There are also public-sector pension funds from both sides of the border and private funds from Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
Together, they control about $2 trillion, some of which is invested in companies active in the oilsands. Their statement was co-ordinated and released by the Boston-based group Ceres, which works to advance environmental causes through the financial sector.
The funds say the oilsands industry is not reducing its greenhouse gas emissions or its water use fast enough. They’re concerned about the lack of information on land reclamation liabilities and worry about lawsuits from aboriginal groups.
“We’re certainly not claiming that the industry is ignoring these issues,” said Andrew Logan of Ceres. “What we’re saying is that we need to dramatically speed up the pace of innovation.”
Ceres considers greenhouse gas emissions a risk because the industry’s rosy forecasts of U.S. export growth don’t account for the potential impact of low-carbon fuel standards, now under consideration or implemented in 14 U.S. states.
Ceres estimated in 2010 that if such regulations eventually cover half of the U.S. market, the export potential for oilsands crude would be reduced by 25 per cent. If such regulations were implemented federally, markets for the oilsands fuel could shrink by a third.
“Most companies don’t really have targets around reducing their greenhouse gas emissions or their water use,” Logan said. “What we’re looking for is specifics.”
Dan Wicklum of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance said his recently formed group of 12 major oilsands producers is starting to do just that.
“Companies certainly want to push themselves,” he said. “We’re just developing the process that we would use to engage and set our goals ... The companies have committed to set a goal.”
“Oil sands operators will continue to work with governments and Aboriginal groups to clarify the consultation and accommodation process for the benefit of all parties over the longer term.”