Scores of representatives from the Prairie provinces are at the annual United Nations climate change negotiations to attract foreign investment in Canadian fossil fuels with a splashy advertising campaign focused on carbon capture technologies.

The ads are strategically placed at the Expo City Dubai stop, where until Dec. 12, about 100,000 people from around the world get off the train. “Strong. Sustainable. Saskatchewan,” the brightly lit signs boast.

A QR code takes anyone who scans it to a website regaling the province’s economic strengths — food, fuel and fertilizer — and inviting those interested to the province’s $765,000 pavilion space at the convention centre for COP28 in the United Arab Emirates.

“Saskatchewan welcomes the world as a strong, secure and sustainable destination for international business,” the website reads.

“We’re a global leader in sustainable practices, such as using CCUS technologies,” it adds. “And, if all oil-producing countries in the world adopted environmental regulations similar to Saskatchewan’s, greenhouse gas emissions from oil production would be cut by 25 per cent.”

Former environment and climate change minister Catherine McKenna told Canada’s National Observer it’s “completely bonkers” to come to a climate summit to push oil and gas extraction.

“This is a climate conference for serious people who are committed to climate action,” said McKenna, who most recently chaired a United Nations expert group that set the gold standard for net-zero commitments to define what’s greenwashing for companies, cities and regions like the Prairie provinces. “Coming here to a COP and selling your oil and gas is not at all consistent with that. It's not consistent with the science, and it's a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.

“There are real concerns that folks are here to do oil and gas deals at a COP,” she added. “The oil and gas industry had their own summit in Alberta on net zero. If they want to go meet and do their oil and gas deals, do it on their own time, don't do it at COPs.”

It is not known how much Saskatchewan paid for the advertising placement or what it paid to produce the promotional materials that include videos calling Saskatchewan oil “sustainable.” Questions sent to Premier Scott Moe’s office were not returned by deadline and representatives at the Saskatchewan pavilion would not take questions from the media.

The Prairie provinces are flogging oil and gas at an international climate conference. Former Environment Minister Catherine McKenna calls it a "complete waste of taxpayer dollars." #COP28 #Saskpoli #abpoli

“Saskatchewan, like all fossil-captured governments, will gleefully spend taxpayer dollars on greenwashed PR buys but fail to invest in the real solutions — a just transition for workers, scaling of renewables and [a] fossil phaseout,” Climate Action Network Canada campaigner Emily Lowan told Canada’s National Observer. “The international community isn’t buying it. It’s an outrage and blatant embarrassment.”

Sustainable Saskatchewan advertisement at the train stop for Expo City Dubai. Photo by John Woodside/Canada’s National Observer

According to its website, supporters of the Saskatchewan pavilion include Whitecap Resources and Strathcona Resources, who each make clear their priority involves continued oil and gas extraction. Other “partners” include Cenovus Energy, Nutrien, Ontario Power Generation and the Canadian Nuclear Association.

“Strathcona is pleased to participate in COP28 to promote the importance and the benefits of Western Canada’s vast hydrocarbon resources that can be part of the solution to the issues of global energy security and energy poverty,” said Strathcona Resources CEO Rob Morgan in a statement.

Similarly, Whitecap Resources CEO Grant Fagerheim said, “We are looking forward to participating in a healthy conversation on practical and realistic energy transformation at COP28 that includes new renewable and other energy options along with oil and gas.”

On social media site X, Moe said he was “honoured” to have Whitecap Resources join his team at COP28. Whitecap is planning a $1.1-billion spending spree next year, where the company will drill hundreds of wells with an eye toward increasing its oil production by 200,000 barrels per day by 2027.

Moe is a “premier and he's coming here fighting all of Canada's policies,” said McKenna. In conversations she’s had with peers in other countries, it’s become clear it’s confusing for people to see premiers come to international negotiations intent on undermining Canada’s position, she said.

McKenna pointed to Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s recent decision to put a moratorium on renewable energy development as a perfect example of a reckless policy that affects all of Canada.

“When something negative happens like that, it actually has a massive impact on our ability to attract investment,” she said.

While Alberta does not have a physical pavilion space and does not appear to have an active advertising campaign in Dubai, the province sent more representatives than any other province, according to an analysis of the official delegate list by Canada’s National Observer.

“It is critical that Alberta have strong representation at COP28 so that we can effectively share our story and our vision with the world,” Smith said ahead of the summit. “We will continue to do everything we can to attract investment and show the world that Alberta will remain an energy and emissions-reduction powerhouse for decades to come.”

Attracting investment in carbon capture technologies appears to be high on her list of priorities, having announced a new carbon capture tax credit days before departing for Dubai.

“Alberta is transitioning away from emissions, not from proven, reliable energy sources,” she said in a statement before the conference.

Lowan said Alberta has a “targetless” climate plan, significantly relying on carbon capture technologies, which she called “a dangerous distraction, with a global track record of failure.”

“Smith’s mythical solution to the climate crisis fails to address that the vast majority of emissions come when fossil fuels are burned,” Lowan said. “The proven reliable energy sources we need — wind and solar — are right outside her door, and it's time for her to stop standing in the way.”

Alberta’s bullish attitude on the continued role of fuels responsible for the climate crisis in the future comes as countries negotiate language calling for a phaseout of fossil fuels — what many see as the litmus test for success at COP28.

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COP 28 has ZERO creditability; the entire event is a joke and waste of time.