(Updates with details, background)
A nationwide emissions trading system is probably not the best way to cut Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions, the province’s Premier Rachel Notley said Monday, hinting the nation’s biggest-emitter would likely opt out if federally-imposed cap-and-trade rules were introduced.
Notley’s comments came a day after her federal counterpart, New Democratic Party (NDP) boss and leader of Canada’s official opposition Tom Mulcair, said he would introduce a pan-Canadian cap-and-trade system if his party wins the Oct. 19 election.
“A national cap-and-trade program may not be our best road forward,” Notley said in a Monday speech at the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, according to local media.
“We may address climate change using different tools than [the emissions trading schemes] Ontario and Quebec will use.”
Notley said that her province would move to phase out coal-fired power plants, which provide 55% of Alberta’s electricity needs.
“We will be looking for a strategy to phase out the use of coal as quickly as we reasonably can — without imposing unnecessary price shocks on consumers, or risking security of supply, or unnecessarily stranding capital,” she said.
Notley gave no further details on the strategy other than to say it would examine increased investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and some form of carbon pricing.
She added that Alberta must get its act together to reduce emissions or risk having a “solution imposed on us” by the federal government and international markets.
Mulcair said his plan will set minimum targets but give flexibility to provinces in how they decide to meet them. It will also recognise any existing efforts, for example those already under way in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, provided they are equivalent to or exceed federal objectives.
For any provinces that don’t come up with a plan, federally-designed rules will be imposed on them.
In June, shortly after becoming premier, Notley’s government announced that it would double Alberta’s existing carbon levy by 2017 while increasing deepening the scheme’s reduction target.
It also assembled a panel of experts to present recommendations towards developing a more ambitious, economy-wide plan, which is expected to be unveiled later this year, ahead of December’s UN climate summit in Paris.
Notley’s comments could suggest that the country will seek to beef up its current carbon levy programme, the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER), or adopt an economy-wide carbon tax similar to neighbour British Columbia.
However, any strategy Alberta adopts will no doubt be brought in gradually, as the province is currently reeling from the global oil price drop and is expected to post a 2015 budget deficit exceeding $5 billion.