Alberta fails for years to monitor greenhouse gas reduction plan: auditor general

Six years after Alberta announced targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions it has yet to present an effective plan or report on making it happen, the auditor general said Tuesday.

EDMONTON — Six years after Alberta announced targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions it has yet to present an effective plan or report on making it happen, the auditor general said Tuesday.

“This is amazing,” Merwan Saher told reporters on a conference call.

“We’re in 2014 and there hasn’t yet been a public report on the success or otherwise of the 2008 (greenhouse gas) reduction strategy.”

He said responsibility lies with Environment Minister Robin Campbell and his predecessors.

“Ministerial oversight has been lacking because good oversight would have insisted on there being good results reporting,” said Saher.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions has been a cornerstone pledge of the province as it battles critics both at home and abroad who accuse it and its energy industry of economic exploitation with little regard for the environment.

In 2008, the province set specific emission reduction targets for 2020 and 2050.

As part of the strategy, large polluters are required by law to reduce emissions intensity by 12 per cent and pay $15 per tonne for emissions that exceed that target.

But Saher said the strategy stalled out of the starting gate and stayed there for four years, with no monitoring publicly reported between 2008 and 2012.

In 2012, he said, when the government determined it would miss its 2020 targets, it drew up an implementation plan.

Saher said that while the plan set targets, it used flawed data and lacked the information needed to effectively monitor progress.

The plan was supposed to be reviewed last year, but that didn’t happen.

In 2013, said Saher, the province set up a governance model for reviewing and revising its climate change strategy that includes working groups organized by key greenhouse-gas emitting sectors.

The group’s work setting up timelines and targets is ongoing.

But Saher said so far it has been hampered by patchwork administrative oversight and instances of meetings not taking place or being held, but with no written account of decisions taken.

Campbell, in a statement, said the province can do better.

“We agree the process used to decide on and evaluate actions to address climate change can be improved,” said Campbell.

But Campbell said there has been success reporting on large greenhouse-gas emitters and in investing in clean technology projects.

“To date those investments have totalled over $234 million into over 90 clean energy projects. Our actions on climate change are providing real results,” he said.

Lack of monitoring is a theme throughout Saher’s report.

Saher said the government’s annual reports are too fuzzy.

They have long lists of what’s to be done, but little clarity on what has actually been carried out to meet specific goals.

He said there are also yawning gaps in monitoring of private-health clinics to make sure taxpayers are getting value for money.

Saher said taxpayers paid $23 million in 2012-13 for 50 clinics to perform minor surgeries, like fixing cataracts.

But he said analysis of the clinics indicates Alberta Health Services needs to clarify who is in charge of monitoring performance, set up consistent benchmarks, and establish a formal follow-up procedure.

NDP critic David Eggen said the underlying theme of the report is that the governing Tories can’t be trusted.

“Albertans believe in protecting our air and our water,” he said in a statement.

“Albertans want a public health care system that is closely monitored to ensure safety and quality. And Albertans want a government that ensures that they are clearly communicating their spending, their priorities and analyzing what’s working.”

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