Alberta, home to Canada’s CO2-intensive oilsands industry, will unveil a new climate change strategy before the Nov. 30 start of UN talks in Paris, the province’s newly-elected premier Rachel Notley said in a newspaper interview published online late on Friday.
Notley’s team is also “working frantically” on new rules to replace Alberta’s carbon levy, which expires at the end of this month, she told The Globe and Mail.
The province has attracted criticism from at home and abroad for not doing more to curb its GHG emissions, which account for more than a third of Canada’s total output.
Notley said Alberta’s new climate strategy will be linked to reforms of Alberta’s energy royalty system, which has filled government coffers for years with revenues from the province’s oil and gas industry.
“One of the things that energy representatives have been saying is that they want us to deal with (this) holistically and that’s not unreasonable,” she told the paper.
“We should be looking at the overall cost pressures we are potentially imposing on the industry through those two different mechanisms. We can’t look at one without moving on the other. We have essentially said that whatever we do going forward they will be linked.”
CO2 PRICING PLANS
Notley and her left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) swept to power last month in a surprise election result that ended more than 40 years of Conservative rule in the oil- and gas-rich province.
She has so far been mum as to how she plans to curb the province’s CO2, but based on her comments along the campaign trail, observers expect Notley to either expand Alberta’s current carbon levy programme, introduce a carbon tax like neighbour British Columbia, or pursue a cap-and-trade strategy similar to those of Ontario and Quebec.
Industry sources told Carbon Pulse that early signs point to an expansion of the province’s current system, which expires on June 30, either through lowering the regulatory threshold or increasing the levy.
Alberta’s Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER), in place since 2007, imposes a $15/tonne fee on facilities that emit more than 100,000 tonnes of CO2e annually.
The scheme requires companies to keep the GHG-intensity of their products below 88% of a baseline calculated using emissions levels between 2003 and 2005. It allows them to comply by purchasing Alberta-based carbon offsets or contributing to a provincial technology fund.
Given the province’s spiralling emissions, green groups have called the SGER unambitious, and because of its tarsands Alberta has attracted the brunt of protests directed at Canada at UN climate talks over the past few years.
Notley said that while it will be tough to change the industry’s dirty image, she wants to engage more in the negotiations.
“What I hope to be able to do is say, ‘Listen, we understand we haven’t done as well as we should have. We’ve taken responsibility for it, we have a plan for it, we’re laying it out in a way that people who understand the issue think could be doable.’ It will be a significant change from where we’ve been.”
Notley said Canada’s negotiating position in Paris could change based on the outcome of this October’s federal election. However, regardless of who wins, she said Alberta is ready to assert itself on the climate issue.
“If nothing else, we have a tremendous amount of provincial autonomy on the issue right now. That’s good,” she told the paper.
Many of Canada’s provinces including Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have said they are pushing forward with their own plans to tackle climate change in the absence of leadership from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s federal Conservative government.
Alberta is currently off-track to meet its own 2020 emission target, which is considered both unambitious at 50 million tonnes below BAU levels, and unrealistic due to its heavy reliance on largely unproven and expensive carbon capture and storage (CCS).
According to Canada’s Pembina Institute, Alberta needs to cut its emissions by 27 million tonnes or more than 10% between 2014 and 2020 to hit its target, which effectively allows it to grow its GHG output by 12% above 2005 levels.
Notley’s NDP government is also introducing increases in income and corporate tax rates to help compensate for a loss of oil revenues stemming from depressed global crude prices.