EDMONTON — An environmental think-tank says Alberta isn’t even close to meeting its mandated targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but can still catch up with drastic action.
The Pembina Institute says in a report released Friday that the province is on track to achieve less than one-third of its stated goal of reducing emissions by 50 megatonnes by the end of the decade.
Co-author Simon Dyer said Alberta needs to move immediately by doubling its fee per tonne of pollutant to $30 from $15 for large emitters, and by imposing the fee on all pollution released, not just on a small portion of it.
Without a strong penalty, said Dyer, other climate-saving incentives and programs such as carbon offsets won’t be attractive.
“We actually think if we had a stronger carbon price it would actually incent more real emission reductions on site and there would be less need for offsets,” said Dyer.
The think-tank made six recommendations on how the province could meet its targets.
It also encouraged Alberta to charge all polluters, not just the large emitters, and suggested more measured growth in the oilsands would help the environment and relieve stress on overburdened infrastructure and services in the area.
Dyer said the current $15 a tonne fee that is applied to 12 per cent of pollution for large emitters equates to about 18 cents on a barrel of oil, which is currently trading above US$93 a barrel.
“We’re sensitive to competitiveness concerns, but Alberta could absolutely strengthen its carbon price and its approach to greenhouse gas management and still have a very prosperous industry here.
“We’ve demonstrated even with a $100 carbon price Alberta would still have the fastest-growing economy in Canada and would still see substantial economic growth.
Mark Cooper, a spokesman for Alberta’s Environment Department, said it welcomed the institute’s findings and agrees that more work needs to be done.
“Definitely there’s room to move,” said Cooper.
But Alberta needs to balance its own interests with larger needs, he said.
“We support a higher price on carbon, but other jurisdictions need to be on board. We need to make sure we’re on a level playing field as it relates to our competitors.
“It’s always been difficult for Alberta stepping out and moving the yardsticks when there’s not a lot of other jurisdictions in Canada and North America that have a price on carbon.”
On the oilsands, Cooper said steps are being taken to reduce emissions, but added that the reality is that if customers don’t buy from Alberta, they’ll buy from somewhere else — Nigeria, Venezuela or Saudi Arabia.