Gore calls Alberta climate plan a powerful signal for humanity

Gore calls Alberta climate plan a powerful signal for humanity
The plan phases out coal power generation by 2030, replacing it with natural gas and renewables - particularly wind - caps oil sands emissions and installs an economy-wide carbon tax of $20 per tonne in 2017 and $30 per tonne in 2018.Photo courtesy of government of Alberta.

Alberta’s new climate change action plan was roundly praised when Premier Rachel Notley released it Sunday, Nov. 22.

The plan phases coal power generation by 2030, caps oil sands emissions and installs an economy-wide carbon tax of $20 per tonne in 2017 and $30 per tonne in 2018.

The tax will be “fully reinvested into measures that reduce pollution – including clean technology, renewable energy and energy efficiency – and also to provide transition help to individuals and families, small businesses, Indigenous communities and people working in the coal industry.”

It will add $300 to the cost of heating a home in its first year.

If the plan is approved, renewable energy sources will comprise up to 30 per cent of Alberta’s electricity production by 2030. An overall oilsands emission limit of 100 megatonnes will be set, with provisions for new upgrading and co-generation. In collaboration with industry, environmental organizations, and affected First Nations, Alberta will also implement a methane reduction strategy to reduce emissions by 45 per cent from 2014 levels by 2025.

A portion of collected revenues will be invested directly into measures to reduce pollution, including clean energy research and technology; green infrastructure, such as public transit; and programs to help Albertans reduce their energy use according to the province.

The plan drew praise from former United States vice president and climate change advocate Al Gore, who called it a “powerful signal … that humanity is beginning to win our struggle to solve the climate crisis.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted the plan was a “very positive step in the fight against climate change.”

His environment minister, Catherine McKenna, was in Edmonton last week meeting with Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips. Phillips told the Journal the approaches of both previous Conservative governments had failed.

“They succeeded in getting approval for precisely zero pipelines and they did not succeed in persuading anyone that their approach to the environment was in any way credible,” she said. “So it’s refreshing to have a partner with whom we can work productively and I further am quite pleased they are going to allow the provinces to chart their own way on this matter.”

The plan is based on the advice of the Climate Change Advisory Panel, led by Dr. Andrew Leach, which heard from thousands of individual Albertans and stakeholder groups in the fall.

Canadian Natural Resources Limited, one of the largest independent crude oil and natural gas producers in the world, said the announcement was a significant step forward for Alberta.

“We appreciate the strong leadership demonstrated by Premier Notley and her government,” chair Murray Edwards said in a statement. “The framework announced will allow ongoing innovation and technology investment in the oil and natural gas sector. In this way, we will do our part to address climate change while protecting jobs and industry competitiveness in Alberta.”

Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean said the plan puts a “tax on everything” and could hurt the economy.

The party said proof this will hit Alberta families and businesses hard is in the adjustment fund to help small businesses cope.

“Unlike British Columbia, which takes its carbon tax and uses it to lower income taxes for all, the vast majority of Albertans and Alberta businesses will only take a hit in this plan.” Jean said. “This new carbon tax will make almost every single Alberta family poorer, while accelerated plans to shut down coal plants will lead to higher power prices and further jobs losses.”

Though he approved of the plan in general, Liberal Leader David Swann also expressed concern over the adjustment fund.

“These are the largest question marks that the government needs to provide answers on,” Swann said. “We need to know what the process will be for this adjustment fund to make sure there isn’t undue hardship on lower income families and small businesses.”

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