Indigenous trade mission to China highlights opportunity for B.C. LNG

First Nations LNG Alliance CEO Karen Ogen takes message of coastal nations to Beijing

By Will Gibson
Karen Ogen is CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance. Photo supplied to Canadian Energy Centre

Participating in a recent trade mission to China has strengthened Karen Ogen’s view of the opportunity for B.C. liquefied natural gas (LNG). 

For the CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, one of 10 Indigenous business leaders in the Canada China Business Council’s trade mission to Beijing in late October, the opportunity was as obvious as the grey smog that blankets the air above China’s capital city on most days. 

“So much of the problem with smog and air quality stems from using coal-fired plants to generate electricity,” says Ogen, a former elected chief and councillor of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.  

Researchers have found that switching Chinese coal plants to natural gas from Canada could reduce emissions by up to 62 per cent. 

“The Chinese don’t view LNG as a fossil fuel. They see it as an important part of moving towards carbon neutrality,” Ogen says. 

“There are huge opportunities for LNG in China and other Asian markets, especially for the coastal nations in British Columbia. The need is there, and the appetite is there. It’s up to us to take advantage of it.” 

Ogen previously took trips to China between 2015 to 2018. The most recent trade mission was organized by the Canada China Business Council specifically for Indigenous businesses, organizations and leaders to build connections and partnerships to develop export markets and sources of investment to facilitate exports. 

Ogen said the delegation gained valuable insights into new forces shaping China in the post-pandemic era, notably around using social media platforms such as TikTok as part of their marketing and e-commerce outreach to the Chinese market. But she remains struck by the appetite for LNG as a lever to lower emissions as energy demand rises. 

“China produces 30 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — it’s the world’s largest emitter and they are committed to addressing that,” Ogen says. 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects natural gas demand in the Asia Pacific region will increase by 55 per cent in the next three decades, reaching 54 trillion cubic feet in 2050. 

Canada can make a meaningful difference in helping reduce emissions by supplying Asian markets with LNG, she says. 

“Converting coal-fired plants in China to LNG produced in Canada would make a bigger impact on greenhouse gas emissions than anything we do in Canada,” Ogen says.  

“Canada needs to think globally when it comes to climate change.” 

The United States already has seen this opportunity and is addressing it by aggressively expanding LNG exports. Already one of the world’s largest LNG exporters, there are five new LNG projects being built in the U.S. 

Canada’s first LNG project is under construction with first exports targeted by 2025. Two Indigenous communities on the B.C. coast are advancing their own proposed terminals, Cedar LNG and Ksi Lisims LNG.  

Ogen doesn’t want to see Canada or B.C.’s coastal First Nations shut out of the opportunities she saw on the trade mission. 

“The message we received from China’s officials was very clear. They are prepared to do business with Canada and Canada’s Indigenous business community. There are opportunities for investment,” she says.  

“But we need governments to work with us to realize those opportunities. If we pursue them seriously, there are real economic benefits for Canada and First Nations.” 

And the five-day trade mission has convinced Ogen about the need to address the barriers for Canadian LNG. 

“We have a real opportunity to help address climate change while benefiting First Nations,” she says. “It makes too much sense for us not to fight for this.” 

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