General public to have say in Alberta climate change policy review

An expert panel on climate change will weigh input from the Alberta public as it determines how the province can best tackle emissions.

CALGARY — An expert panel on climate change will weigh input from the Alberta public as it determines how the province can best tackle emissions.

The five-member panel, chaired by University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach, is embarking on consultations without any pre-set reduction targets in mind and aims to have the “architecture” of a broad policy ready for UN climate talks in Paris this December.

“Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing our province and our world,” said NDP Environment Minister Shannon Phillips. “We know we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and wait for other jurisdictions to impose their approaches on us.”

Consultations are to take place through September. Public sessions will be held in Edmonton and Calgary and Albertans will be able to have their say online, too. The panel will also seek input from various industries, academia, municipalities and First Nations and Metis communities.

All views will be given equal weight, said Phillips.

“It’s not just about oilsands and the energy sector. It’s also about how we power our homes, how we get to work in the morning and how we create a new and greener and more sustainable economy that creates those good, long-term, mortgage-paying jobs,” she said. “So all Albertans have a stake in that and that’s exactly why we want to hear from them.”

Phillips said the panel’s job will be “examining what a credible and realistic target actually is” for the province.

Under the previous Progressive Conservative governments there was a disconnect between targets and action, she said.

Leach added that targets, and the policies and technologies needed to meet them, can’t be looked at in isolation.

“We need to link those two conversations,” he said.

The four members joining Leach on the panel were also announced Friday.

They are:

— Gord Lambert, with GRL Collaboration for Sustainability and formerly with oilsands giant Suncor Energy (TSX:SU).

— Linda Coady, chief sustainability officer at pipeline builder Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB).

— Stephanie Cairns, principal at Wrangellia Consulting and board member of the Pembina Institute environmental think-tank and the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

— Angela Adams, Unifor’s director of education and a trustee with the Fort McMurray Public School District.

Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema said he has concerns with the panel’s mandate and makeup.

“The scientific consensus on the necessary reductions to keep warming below two degrees Celsius should be used to set the reduction target and the panel’s job should be to advise on how to achieve those reductions,” he said.

“We are also concerned that the panel has several oil industry-affiliated representatives but doesn’t have anyone from the renewable energy, efficiency or transportation sectors.”

Meanwhile, Clean Energy Canada said the government is moving closer to a plan that will “deliver meaningful greenhouse gas reductions,” while the Pembina Institute praised the “well-balanced lineup” on the panel.

Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said industry collaboration, energy efficiency and investment in emissions-reducing technologies need to part of the discussion.

“The Alberta government wants to do more to address climate change — but it wants to grow the oil and gas industry, too,” he said. “I believe we can find a balanced approach that achieves both.”

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