Alberta: the key to meeting Canada’s GHG Targets

Over five years ago a Federal Conservative Cabinet minister attempted to convince the Alberta Government to  set a price on carbon by joining a national system for cap and trade.

At the time Alberta had an internal cap and trade system  for large emitters. The Alberta Government considered that any national cap-and-trade system  would potentially limit  growth in the oil and gas sector and also transfer wealth to other provinces. So the approach came to nothing: without Alberta’s support the Federal Government would  never participate in such a system .

When these discussions took place,  Alberta’s fossil fuel industry was going gangbusters.  The Province anticipated large and still-growing reneues from the tar sands.   So it was business as usual.

That Cabinet minister was Jim Prentice, now the Premier of Alberta.  He has just called a general election to obtain electoral support for some tough fiscal measures that have not been seen in Alberta for decades.  He won’t attend the meeting of the Provincial Premiers in Quebec where the principal topic will be a national cap-and-trade system.  And it is unlikely that the next Alberta Government will propose measures to limit Alberta’s emissions.

Alberta’s inaction over the last five years has prevented progress on  the reduction of Canada’s emissions.  Consider –

  • Tar sands have been, and under business-as-usual will continue to be, the fastest rising source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
  • If the tar sands continue to grow, emissions from Alberta in 2020 (with just 11 per cent of Canada’s population), will approach the combined emissions from Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia (75 per cent of the population).
  • Offsetting emissions growth in the tar sands would require Herculean efforts from other provinces or sectors. For Canada to reach its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction targets while allowing the tar sands to grow as planned, we’d have to convert all Canadian cars and trucks to electric vehicles, or completely decarbonize British Columbia, the Atlantic Provinces, and the territories.

(taken from Commentary by Environmental Defence and GreenPeace)

There is another way of looking at the futility of Provincial efforts if Alberta is not a participant. As the Globe and Mail points out:  Alberta’s increased emissions are very close to the reductions that Ontario has targeted.

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