Sunday was a big day in Alberta, it was “the day we set a better course for our economic future” -Premier Rachel Notley. The government of Alberta unveiled their new Climate Leadership strategy, a plan to reduce carbon emissions in Alberta. Many thought this change was long overdue; according to the Government of Canada Alberta produced 36.8% of Canada’s Green house gas emissions while only having represented 18.2% of Canada’s GDP in 2013.
The important components of Alberta’s plan include: phasing out coal powered electricity, putting a price on carbon emissions, placing a cap on emissions from the oil sands, and implementing an environmental efficiency program.
Alberta’s use of coal for electricity has long been a contentious issue. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists coal is “the primary cause of global warming” and “a leading cause of smog, acid rain, and toxic air pollution”. The government of Alberta’s plan is not an easy one. To phase out the use of coal while supporting coal workers and working with industry to phase in renewable electricity sources is a fifteen year process, hopefully being completed in 2030. There will, however, be readily accessible funds for this endeavour.
The aforementioned funds come from the somewhat controversial carbon tax. The controversy is mainly that people don’t enjoy paying taxes. The price will be $30 per ton of carbon emissions, it won’t be effective until 2018, and all capital will remain in Alberta. The Calgary Herald reported this costing an estimated $470 per household, not including rebates.
Lastly the plan outlines an oil sands emissions limit and an energy efficiency program. The emissions limit will be 100 megatons annually. The oil sands currently produces 70 megatons of emissions each year, meaning the limit is actually 140% higher than current emissions. This is likely done to allow continued growth in the industry.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of this policy was who was in favour. At the unveiling the chairman of Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Murray Edwards, said “This plan recognizes Alberta’s need for cooperation between the environment and the economy”. Beside him stood Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute, who said "Ensuring renewable electricity is a big part of the replacement generation is perhaps the most important thing that the world can do to avoid dangerous climate change. [This] plan does that”. It’s not too often that the Pembina institute and the oil and gas industry see completely eye-to-eye, either times are changing or this is a sound plan (or maybe both).