(Adds CEO interview, comments on Shell court ruling)
May 26 (Reuters) - Canada’s second-largest oil producer, Suncor Energy Inc, said on Wednesday it plans to cuts its emissions by more than one-third, the most aggressive target of any oil sands producer, even as it lifts production to a new high.
Fossil-fuel companies, and especially producers in Canada’s high-carbon oil sands, face growing pressure from investors and lenders to cut emissions.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set a goal of dropping national emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030.
At Suncor’s annual investor day, executives said the company would cut annual emissions across its operations by 10 million tonnes or 34%, by 2030, through using lower carbon power, carbon-capture facilities and other initiatives. Its 2019 emissions were 29 million tonnes.
The company is the first major oil sands producer to set an absolute emissions reductions target, with most focusing on lowering emissions per barrel.
Even as it reduces emissions, Suncor will raise oil production to a record-high average of 800,000 barrels per day over 2021-25, by improving the efficiency of its current facilities rather than building new projects.
“We will continue to produce oil sands for many decades to come,” Chief Executive Mark Little said, adding that Suncor would not sell assets to reach emissions targets.
The company has opportunities to go even further and beat its 2030 emissions goal, Little said in an interview.
Suncor’s production plan is at odds with a scenario recently laid out by the International Energy Agency (IEA), said Dale Marshall, national climate program manager at Environmental Defence. The IEA said investors should not fund new oil, gas and coal projects if the world is to reach net-zero emissions by midcentury.
Energy companies around the world could face legal pressure as well, after a Dutch court ordered Royal Dutch Shell to deepen planned emissions cuts.
Little said he was surprised by the ruling and did not understand how courts were able to determine corporate goals, adding he did not think the ruling was relevant to the Canadian oil industry.
“I do think you’re going to see more and more legal actions associated with climate,” he said.
Suncor said it is also aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050.
The company said it would focus its planned C$5 billion ($4.14 billion) annual capital spending through 2025 on reducing costs and improving “carbon competitiveness.”
Suncor shares rose 0.5% in Toronto to C$28.02, lagging rivals’ gains. ($1 = 1.2074 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)