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Premiers hopeful Canada can shed global image as environmental pariah

The provincial government is promising its new carbon tax won’t hurt low-income Albertans, but details on how it intends to prevent their financial pain are still a work in progress.

But the provinces are also wary that Ottawa may seek to impose a federal approach despite the fact that in Quebec last April, premiers reached their own framework to guide a pan-Canadian climate approach, and then in the summer, concluded a broad-brush energy strategy focused on innovation and clean technology.

Two-thirds of coal-generated electricity will be replaced by renewable, primarily wind power. “With the carbon price, you always have to judge against an alternative”.

“Given the international attention on coal as an unnecessary source of pollution, the government of Alberta’s decision not only protects people’s health and saves the province’s health care system hundreds of millions of dollars a year, it gives Alberta the credibility to bring a better message and approach to Paris”, said Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute.

When it comes to the cap on oilsands emissions, McInerney says it leaves room for the sector to continue to grow given that it’s currently emitting about 70 megatonnes a year.

Alberta’s carbon footprint, spurred on by the tar sands industry, has been steadily growing in recent years. “Unfairly in my view, the President of the United States claimed that our production is some of the dirtiest oil in the world”.

The Alberta Government said in the press release that they plan to transition to more renewable energy and natural gas generation by 2030.

“Alberta just leapfrogged the Government of Canada on climate ambition, and Prime Minister Trudeau should use this announcement to move forward a plan to truly meet our obligations to a 2ºC world”, Cameron Fenton, Canadian tar sands organizer with 350.org, said following the announcement.

On-site combustion (i.e., flaring) at conventional oil and gas facilities will be subject to the carbon pricing regime starting in 2023. “We are turning the page on the mistaken policies of the past”. It also creates the conditions for Alberta’s oil to become carbon competitive on the global stage and for Canadians to begin receiving full value for their oil exports. The province will completely phase out coal power by 2030, and place a $20 per ton tax on carbon emissions beginning in 2017, which will increase to $30 per ton in January of 2018.

Leach, whose organization represents mid-sized oil and gas companies, added that reducing methane emissions was one of the biggest issues for conventional oil and gas producers, along with higher energy input costs, as they try to comply with the government’s carbon policies.

The plan is expected to reduce carbon emissions in the province, despite an expected increase in population and industry, and at a cost born by all Albertans.

 

Jennifer Morgan, at the US think tank, WRI said the announcement sent a “clear and positive signal to the world shortly before the Paris climate summit”.

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