Alberta’s new Climate Strategy

At the end of November 2015, the province of Alberta announced a new climate change strategy. The province is under the leadership of Rachel Notley and the NDP party. The plan was revealed a week in advance of COP21 in Paris. The book Canadian Environmental in Political Context discusses provincial climate and energy plans in Chapter 8. At the time of writing, Alberta had a weak and often criticized policy (a non-substantial price on carbon).

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The new plan can be found on the Government of Alberta’s website. Essentially, there are 4 key areas: (1) phasing out coal (2) implementing a new price on carbon (3) placing a regulatory limit on oil sands emissions and (4) implementing a new methane emission reduction plan. What does this mean in detail?

Coal generated electricity will be phased out by 2030. You may be thinking that Ontario already did this in 2015 – what is taking Alberta so long? Keep in mind that Ontario is rich in nuclear and hydro-electricity. Alberta is going phase coal while increasing investment in renewable energy like solar and wind. This will take some time.

The new price on carbon will not be fully implemented immediately. But starting January 1, 2017 there will be a $20 per tonne carbon price applied to all sectors (not just oil sands or coal, for example). On Jan 1, 2018 that price will increase to $30 per tonne. The price is supposed to increase each year thereafter. What will the province do with all this new found wealth? It will be invested in measures to reduce pollution, namely alternative energy (see above). Thus, it is not revenue neutral like BC’s carbon tax as discussed in the book. Instead, the revenue will be used for new spending – but only in the area of pollution reduction.

In the oil sands there will be an emissions limit of 100Mt a year. This is insignificant right now because the price of oil is so low that Alberta is not producing anywhere near this amount. In 2014 emissions where 55 Mt. Thus the province is still allowing for substantial growth in the oil sands – but not unlimited growth.

Methane emissions are going to be reduced by 45% by 2025. This will mainly be accomplished through ensuring that new facilities are designed differently such that venting and fugitive emissions decrease.

So this is good news, right? Yes. From a province like Alberta this is big news. No one expected anything – so this something is better than the nothing! Go Alberta!

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