It was a bold step forward by any measure, and a clear signal that things have changed forever in energy-rich Alberta.
Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan, announced today by Premier Rachel Notley, accelerates the phase out of coal fired power generation, sets targets for renewable electricity sources, puts a price on carbon emissions, and makes combatting climate change a core element of the provinces energy policy.
More significantly it sets limits for emissions from the oil sands, a move that would not have seemed possible only a few months ago.
“Responding to climate change is about doing what’s right for future generations of Albertans – protecting our jobs, health and the environment,” said Premier Notley. “It will help us access new markets for our energy products, and diversify our economy with renewable energy and energy efficiency technology.”
‘A kick in the teeth’
“We got a major wake-up call on this a few weeks ago, in the form of a kick in the teeth from the Government of the United States,” said the Premier.
“Unfairly in my view, the President of the United States claimed that our production is some of the “dirtiest oil in the world. That is the reputation that mistaken government policies have earned for us.”
The Alberta plan includes a number of far reaching carbon reduction measures designed to correct the mistakes of past policies.
Electricity and renewables
- Alberta will phase out all pollution created by burning coal and transition to more renewable energy and natural gas generation by 2030.
- Three principles will shape the coal phase-out: maintaining reliability; providing reasonable stability in prices to consumers and business; and, ensuring that capital is not unnecessarily stranded.
- Two-thirds of coal-generated electricity will be replaced by renewables – primarily wind power – while natural gas generation will continue to provide firm base load reliability.
- Renewable energy sources will comprise up to 30 per cent of Alberta’s electricity production by 2030.
- A price on carbon provides an incentive for everyone to reduce greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change.
- Alberta will phase in this pricing in two steps.
- $20/tonne economy-wide in January 2017
- $30/tonne economy-wide in January 2018
- An overall oil sands 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 implement a methane reduction strategy to reduce emissions by 45% from 2014 levels by 2025.
- One-hundred per cent of proceeds from carbon pricing will be reinvested in Alberta.
- 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.
- Other revenues will be invested in an adjustment fund that will help individuals and families make ends meet; provide transition support to small businesses, First Nations, and people working in affected coal facilities.
Getting to 2030
Carbon pricing will remain a key provincial tool to address climate change. Alberta’s new approach will cover 78 to 90 per cent of provincial emissions – the highest in Canada.
The carbon price will be applied across all sectors, starting at $20 per tonne on January 1, 2017 and moving to $30 per tonne on January 1, 2018.
This price will increase in real terms each year after that. On-site combustion in conventional oil and gas will be levied starting January 1, 2023 while that sector works to reduce methane under the government’s new Joint Initiative on Methane Reduction and Verification.
Product-based emission performance standards will replace the current approach, which will drive best-in-class performance.
Emissions from transportation and heating fuels will be priced at the distributor and importer stage.
Carbon pricing revenue will be fully reinvested into measures that reduce pollution – including clean technology, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Economy-wide carbon pricing reduces emissions at the lowest total cost to the economy, drives markets for new products and puts the onus of reducing emissions and improving the health of the environment on everyone – Albertans, businesses, industry and governments.
Reactions –Swift and Positive
Reaction to the Alberta announcement has been positive and widespread.
“We do need to win faster. And so I encourage Premier Notley, and all of Alberta, to follow this first step with continued bold action to transition away from fossil fuels,” said Al Gore, Former US Vice President and Chairman of The Climate Reality Project.
“This is a strong, positive step in the right direction. We want to send a clear signal to Canadians and our partners around the world that Canada is back and ready to play our part,” said federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna. “Premier Notley’s new plan for Alberta is a real and vital contribution to that effort.”
Alberta’s commitment to promote the use of wind energy prompted this comment from Robert Hornung, President of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).
“Wind energy is one of the most cost-competitive ways to generate new electricity in Alberta and Alberta is wise to draw on its tremendous wind energy resources to help replace coal-fired electricity in the province.”
Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, said “The cap on tar sands emissions is a game changer. The tar sands have been the fastest growing source of emissions in Canada. Now we know that growth will stop.”
Most of the elements of the new Climate Plan were recommended in a report from an advisory panel appointed in the spring chaired by Dr. Andrew Leach from the University of Alberta.
Establishing Alberta’s climate leadership was a significant element of the Advisory Panel’s policy recommendations.
The Advisory Panel’s report is available here.