Suncor is an active participant in public policy development, from environmental and economic issues to social policies – find out more in the 2016 Report on Sustainability

Suncor is an active participant in public policy development, find out more in the 2016 Report on Sustainability

Suncor is an active participant in public policy development, from environmental and economic issues to social policies – find out more in the 2016 Report on Sustainability

Suncor is an active participant in public policy development, from environmental and economic issues to social policies – find out more in the 2016 Report on Sustainability

View the latest Report on Sustainability

A Suncor employee watches the sun set in Norway

Public policy participation

On this page:


We participate in public policy discussions on energy and the environment, and regularly communicate with governments in jurisdictions where we operate. In doing so, we ensure that we comply with all political contributions and lobbying regulations, and report government interactions consistent with the law and company policies. This year, Suncor is expanding its disclosure by publishing its policy on lobbying and political donations, and listing trade associations that lobby government to which Suncor pays membership dues of greater than $50,000 and $100,000 per year.

We support governments taking a reasoned approach to policy development. We believe policy should be built on evidence-based information and perspectives.

Education and development of solutions are critical in our interaction with government. These activities promote responsible development of existing and new energy sources. We aim to decrease the probability of ad hoc or reactive policy development by working to reduce polarized dialogue.

Our communication with governments includes:

  • applying a broad-based economy-wide carbon price
  • encouraging a healthy debate about energy solutions
  • understanding role of advancements in research and innovation
  • considering energy development and distribution costs and benefits
  • encouraging Aboriginal economic collaboration and capacity building
  • developing vibrant, sustainable communities
  • supporting Canada’s long-term prosperity

A snapshot of some of our thoughts and opinions follows:

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Economic policy

Royalties and taxes

Royalties and taxes should deliver a fair return to government, while providing industry with a competitive, stable and predictable fiscal framework on which to base long-term investment decisions. Policies should recognize market factors, such as challenges faced by corporations competing in a global economy. Levies added over and above current royalties and taxes need to be holistically considered and understood in terms of costs, outcomes and competitiveness against other jurisdictions in which Canada’s natural resources compete.

Transparency

We support regulations that promote transparency and advocate for rules that are consistently applied and respect agreements with First Nations.

Cumulative impact of policy changes

We continually study expected cost increases resulting from recent and proposed policy changes. The study findings are used to inform our approach to the energy systems dialogue. They also help us reflect on opportunities holistically so we can fully consider policy benefits and focus on how to incent constructive outcomes.

Market access

There are several proposals for new or expanded pipelines across the country and into the United States to take oil sands supply to markets. They face significant public scrutiny with concerns being raised about pipeline and marine safety, First Nations rights and their strong relationships to local ecosystems, and broader objections about enabling the North American economy’s reliance on fossil fuels. We are working with stakeholders to address many of these concerns from a producer’s perspective and are engaged with governments to the same extent.

In addition to the existing comprehensive and robust regulatory framework in place that governs development and operation of pipelines and other large infrastructure projects, we support Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) proposed methodology for assessing the upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from projects undergoing federal environmental assessment. We believe that efficient, effective and transparent regulatory oversight is the responsible thing to do and will be valuable to accurately inform Canadians, decision makers and other stakeholders. We further believe that ECCC’s proposed process is a necessary component towards advancing a credible climate and energy systems framework for integrating emissions reduction from Canada’s energy developments as our industry contributes toward a lower carbon future through our continued commitment to invest in research, innovation and technology.

Read more about market access on Suncor.com

Social policy

Local community capacity

In co-operation with industry partners and local business associations, we have been working with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in northeast Alberta to better forecast future population growth and infrastructure needs. Building non-profit capacity and supporting key community initiatives — such as the MacDonald Island Park expansion and the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games — continue to be an important component of our work in the region. We also participate in the Athabasca Oil Sands Area Transportation Coordinating Committee, where infrastructure needs, funding and financing options are discussed and prioritized.

Read more about community investment

Read more about Aboriginal relations

Environment policy

Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP)

In 2008, the Alberta government introduced the Land Use Framework. The purpose of the Land Use Framework was to manage growth in Alberta by balancing economic, social and environmental goals. Under the Framework, seven regional plans were to be developed. The first regional plan, the LARP, was completed in 2012.

The LARP is designed to allow appropriate economic growth (primarily of oil sands) while ensuring appropriate social and environmental goals are met. The LARP includes management frameworks for:

  • Air (SO2 and NOx)
  • surface water quality
  • surface water quantity
  • tailings management
  • regional groundwater management

Each of these frameworks includes interim triggers to allow early indications of change. A Biodiversity Management Framework and Landscape Management Plan are under development.

LARP also includes:

  • six new conservation areas increasing the total amount of conserved land in the region to two million hectares, or 22% of the region
  • a plan to address infrastructure challenges around Fort McMurray
  • nine new provincial recreation areas
  • a commitment to engage and work with Aboriginal communities
  • support for diversification of the regional economy including tourism and recreational opportunities and future development of energy, minerals, coal, surface materials, and forestry resources

The LARP provides certainty for industry for the development of the oil sands and will shape the development of the Lower Athabasca Region for many years to come.

On an ongoing basis, we also participate in technical discussions that lay a foundation for future policy and regulation on issues such as tailings management, water return, biodiversity and wetlands.

Read more about water quality monitoring

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

Climate change regulation

We are engaged with all levels of government to establish a credible carbon policy regulatory framework for the oil and gas sector in Canada. Our position is that Canada's oil sands are a world-class responsibly developed resource that is needed to meet growing global energy demand.

Part of being a sustainable energy company is recognizing that climate change is a real global challenge and that our operations have an environmental impact.  We are a strong voice in the call for credible policy to address the Canadian oil and gas industry’s GHG emissions. In our view, this includes a carbon price signal that incents the right behaviour and a practical regulatory architecture. Since 2008, we have spoken publicly in support of a broad based economy-wide carbon price. Our continued collaboration with Canada’s EcoFiscal Commission has generated numerous reports focused on two themes:

  • the importance of implementing carbon pricing
  • considerations needed for policy design

We support regulatory design that:

  • drives best achievable performance from existing facilities
  • provides clear support for innovation and technology development that enables game-changing solutions
  • positions Canada as a leader in energy innovation
  • sets challenging but achievable reduction goals with a process that allows for an increase in ambition as technology develops
  • provides for multi-jurisdictional compliance pathways

Read more about our GHG performance

Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan

In November 2015, the Government of Alberta introduced a new carbon pricing regime as part of its Climate Leadership Plan (CLP). The CLP is informed by an independent Climate Change Advisory Panel (CCAP) formed by the government. The CLP includes a broad based economy-wide carbon price with a legislated cap on oilsands emissions of 100 MT per year. The government is expected to introduce a Carbon Competitiveness Regulation (CCR), replacing the current Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER) with carbon pricing that applies to all industries announced to come into effect on January 1, 2017, at a price of $20 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). The price will increase to $30 per tonne in 2018. These measures are expected to cover an estimated 78-90% of the province’s carbon emissions.

Suncor is proud to have worked with leading environmental organizations to better understand each other's views and recommend solutions for the oil and natural gas industry that helped inform the CLP. We believe that the CLP will provide predictability and certainty and will help ensure that producers can responsibly develop and grow Canada’s oil sands resource while also addressing global concerns about climate change.

Under the CCR, large industrial emitters, like Suncor, will be required to either:

  • meet performance standards that have yet to be set;
  • purchase Alberta-based offset credits or;
  • contribute to Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund (CCEMF) for all emissions that exceed the performance standards

Money collected through the CCEMF is managed by the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation, an independent not-for-profit organization with a mandate to establish or participate in funding initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve Alberta’s ability to adapt to climate change. In addition to the SGER, Alberta introduced a fuel tax of 0.04 cents per litre of fuel.

We believe it is important for government to link progressive carbon markets in a way that balances environmental performance, energy development and the economy.

Quebec – Cap and Trade

Quebec, with annual average GHG emissions of about 80 million tonnes, has its own target to cut emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. The Quebec cap and trade guidelines are based on those guiding the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), an economy-wide emissions trading system. The WCI partners (which also include Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia and California) have agreed to cut GHG emissions by at least 15% below 2005 levels by 2020.

Our Montreal refinery is required to purchase carbon allowances to cover transportation emissions (the tailpipe emissions from vehicles) along with its stationary emissions under the Quebec Cap and Trade program. The WCI cap and trade system imposes a limit on the emissions allowed in each sector of the economy. This provides certainty for industries and creates investment opportunities.

British Columbia – Carbon Tax

In 2008, B.C. implemented a carbon tax that covers most types of fuel use and carbon emissions. It started out with a price of $10 per tonne of carbon dioxide and has risen to $30 per tonne, which works out to about 0.07 cents per litre of fuel. The B.C. carbon tax is revenue-neutral in that the monies collected from the tax are put back into the economy through equivalent cuts to other taxes.

Ontario – Proposed Cap and Trade

The Ontario government plans to achieve their 2020 environmental goal of reducing GHG emissions to 15% below 1990 levels by limiting GHG emissions through a cap and trade system. Ontario is currently working to design and implement the WCI system currently used by Quebec and California which is expected to take effect on January 1, 2017.

We have experience in working with all forms of carbon regimes and will collaborate with the Ontario Government as it designs its cap and trade regulatory framework.

Low carbon fuel standards

We continue to monitor initiatives to establish low carbon fuel standards (LCFS), like those in California, and are involved in reporting and compliance in British Columbia.

An LCFS is designed to reduce the GHG intensity associated with the production, transport and combustion of transportation fuels. An LCFS regulation requires a percentage reduction in the intensity of GHGs emitted from the production and use of transportation fuels relative to a baseline fuel (i.e. gasoline and diesel).

What distinguishes a low carbon fuel standard from other regulations is the requirement that regulated entities conduct a full life cycle accounting (LCA) of GHG emissions for fuels regulated under the program. Exploration, refining and distribution of transportation fuels (well-to-tank) account for approximately 20% of the total life cycle GHG emissions. The combustion of transportation fuels (tank-to-wheel) accounts for approximately 80% of total life cycle GHG emissions.

Our view is that LCA is a useful and appropriate tool for policy development and evaluating carbon reduction decisions, as well as measuring progress over time. However, when LCA is used as a basis for regulation, the need to simplify an extremely complex analysis that is specific to boundaries, assumptions, site and inherent processes diminishes its relevance and accuracy.

We advocate that the most effective place to regulate well-to-tank emissions is in the jurisdiction in which they occur. In addition, we advocate for a comprehensive transportation sector strategy that addresses each of the three areas of transportation sector emissions – vehicle efficiency, vehicle miles travelled and the carbon intensity of fuels.

Renewable energy

Renewable power policy activity

We continue to progress wind energy policy discussions. Current activities are focused on supporting efforts through the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) and through the Independent Power Producers Association of Alberta.

In Alberta, the CLP accelerates the transition from coal to renewable electricity and natural gas generation by 2030. The government is committed to replacing two-thirds of coal generated electricity with renewables, primarily wind power with natural gas such as from Suncor’s cogeneration facilities used throughout our operations to provide reliability firm base load electricity. Renewable energy sources are proposed to comprise up to 30% of Alberta’s total electricity.

Biofuel policy advocacy

Canada’s renewable biofuels industry is quickly maturing and is working to improve its long-term viability as current government support programs directed at first generation biofuels decline. As opportunities arise, we will consider investing in advanced renewable energy technologies to complement the existing biofuel industry.

Read more about our renewable energy projects

National sustainable energy strategy

We continue to be a strong advocate of a national sustainable energy strategy for Canada.

Our vision of a sustainable energy future is about harnessing existing strengths, while preparing the way for new opportunities. The future is not about limiting choices; it is about expanding them. The oil sands industry can help to achieve the objectives of a national plan. The industry can mobilize capital and technical expertise, and generate the wealth needed to enable a necessary transition in our energy system.

We continue to support framing a strategy as a process rather than a prescriptive end product. There will be significant energy infrastructure development and replacement needs over the next few decades. There is a critical role for an advisory agency — perhaps similar to Canada’s EcoFiscal Commission — to play in bringing deep expertise and consensus-building capability for Canada to successfully navigate the complexities of transitioning our energy system.