Alberta tweaks greenhouse gas rules, promises more substantive changes ahead

The Alberta government has tweaked its greenhouse gas reduction rules now with a promise of a complete policy on reducing climate change-causing emissions a few months down the road.

EDMONTON — The Alberta government has tweaked its greenhouse gas reduction rules now with a promise of a complete policy on reducing climate change-causing emissions a few months down the road.

“Some will argue that we aren’t going far enough on these issues,” NDP Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said Thursday. “I say to them we are serious about making progress.

“Some will argue we are moving too far and too fast. I say to them that more of the same would be the worst thing we could do for our energy economy and for the future of our province.”

The new policy leaves intact the previous government’s policy of taxing carbon based on production levels, often referred to as carbon intensity. That means even under Thursday’s changes, the province’s total emissions are unlikely to fall for years.

“It’s very challenging to imagine absolute emissions peaking and coming down in the next five years,” said Ed Whittingham of the clean energy think-tank the Pembina Institute, who was at the podium with Phillips.

Large emitters will now be expected to cut their emissions by 20 per cent per unit of production by 2017. That’s significantly higher than the current expectation of 12 per cent. The cost of any emissions that exceed their allotment will double by 2017 to $30 a tonne.

That fine only applies to carbon dioxide releases over the allowed level. The real price of carbon emissions in Alberta will only rise to about $6, said Phillips, or between 30 and 45 cents per barrel of bitumen — far lower than what most economists believe is needed to drive absolute cuts.

Government estimates suggest that will reduce emissions by about five megatonnes compared to what they would have been under the current policy. Alberta currently releases about 267 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.

But Phillips also announced a sweeping review of all of Alberta’s climate change measures, to be conducted together with an energy royalty review.

The climate review will be led by Andrew Leach, a University of Alberta energy economist who has published widely on the issue and has also worked with the federal government on climate policy.

“My mandate’s not to come to a particular set of recommendations,” Leach said. “(We want) to get a sense where Albertans want to go in terms of a goal, to challenge some of those goals in terms of ’Are you also happy with the policy that would get you to that goal?’ and to try to come to a reconcile position.”

Leach is to table his report in time for the international climate change meeting in Paris this December.

Whittingham called Thursday’s announcement a good first step, but put Leach on notice about what he’ll be looking for.

“How are you going to accelerate the phase-out of coal-fired generation? What are you doing to ensure renewables get a fair share of the replacement generation? What are we doing to ensure we create micro-generation? What are doing to ensure we have a credible price on carbon?

“We need to move to a system that is going to drive reductions.”

Mike Hudema of Greenpeace agreed.

“(We) are glad the change to the existing carbon pricing regulation is just an interim measure,” he said. “Much more substantial policies need to be implemented.”

Liberal Leader David Swan offered similar caveats.

“I look to the minister and to this review in this next couple of months to actually tell Albertans honestly when we’re going to start to see carbon levels in the atmosphere in Alberta reduced. All we’re doing here is slowing the acceleration.”

Meanwhile, Progressive Conservative Leader Ric McIvor worried about the impact on business.

“This is more uncertainty for the industry,” he said. “We’ve got a royalty review, we’ve got (corporate income) tax increases, we’ve got this (climate review) and we’ve got Alberta leaking investment like a sieve.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Human remains found in burned Alberta hotel after ice thaws enough to permit search

WETASKIWIN, Alta. — Police in Alberta say that after a week of… Continue reading

Tumour on Edmonton woman’s liver was rare parasite, not cancer

EDMONTON — Cassidy Armstrong says she washes her hands, cleans her vegetables… Continue reading

Man who flew to Toronto from China is Canada’s first coronavirus case

TORONTO — A man in his 50s who travelled to Toronto from… Continue reading

WATCH: Songwriters discuss what makes a great country tune, creative process

Alberta Country Music Awards Songwriters Showcase was held in Red Deer Saturday

RCMP investigating fatal fire in Wetaskiwin

Wetaskiwin RCMP and the Major Crimes unit are investigating after human remains… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: The basics you need for your body type

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Feb. 1 A Jump Rope Competition will be held at the Abbey… Continue reading

Virus death toll in China rises as US prepares evacuation

BEIJING — A new viral illness being watched with a wary eye… Continue reading

Alberta open to extending Feb. 28 deadline for high-tech panel report

EDMONTON — Alberta’s economic development minister says she is open to extending… Continue reading

‘Supersites’ in Iqaluit, Whitehorse to improve Arctic weather forecasting

Weather matters in the Arctic like it does in few other places,… Continue reading

Canadian Forces sending plane and crew to help fight Australia’s fires

OTTAWA — Canada is sending a military transport plane and about 15… Continue reading

‘There are many degrees of hate’: Quebec blogger takes on far right

MONTREAL — Far-right group La Meute was once seen as a growing… Continue reading

Metis leaders raise concerns about national council, call for reform

OTTAWA — The regional Metis presidents of Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan are… Continue reading

Weersink and Kings shutout top-ranked NAIT Ooks

Queens hockey also knock off Olds College Broncos

Most Read