1993 Imperial Oil Issue Summary of Global Warming and Climate Change

This 1993 document from Imperial Oil, Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary, is an “Issue Summary” of global warming and climate change policies. 

The summary notes that while the “Federal government made an early commitment to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions…measures to achieve remain incomplete.” 

Of particular interest in this summary are its references to a potential carbon tax, mentioning “concern over talk of potential use of energy tax as replacement for GST in Canada within the Liberal Caucus.” The summary specifically refers to the 1991 study commissioned by Imperial into the potential efficacy of various taxes, which found (among other things) that a strict carbon tax was the only pathway by which “the goal of flat emissions below 500 million tonnes” could be achieved. As written in this document, the study concluded that “very high levels of tax would be required to achieve a CO2 stabilization target.”  Imperial’s goal was to make such taxes look like a bad option for the government to pursue.

This document then explicitly lays out Imperial’s “Corporate Position” on the issue, in spite of the clear findings of the carbon tax study:

“IOL has lobbied for a cautious and flexible response with two major public discussion papers in 1990 and 1991 and extensive discussions with government, thought leaders and the media:

  • Many uncertainties, does not warrant drastic steps at this time. 
  • Makes little sense to act unilaterally to respond to a global issue.
  • Focus should shift to all greenhouse gases, sources and sinks, not just CO2 production from energy use.” 

This document along with others in the Climate Files Imperial Oil collection illustrates a significant shift towards skepticism and denial in the company’s rhetoric around climate change, beginning around this time. 

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