Alberta’s 2015 climate plan


in Canada, Economics, Law, Politics, Science, The environment

There’s a mass of news coverage and punditry about Alberta’s newly-announced pre-Paris climate change plan:

To me, this seems like a useful step forward: an acknowledgement that Alberta must act to curb climate pollution and that fossil fuel expansion cannot continue forever.

That said, this is all happening late. We should have stopped expansion decades ago and by this point jurisdictions like Canada with high GDP per capita and very high GHG pollution per capita should be on the downslope of cutting back aggressively.

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. November 23, 2015 at 2:02 pm


Yesterday, the government of Alberta made a pretty major announcement. They rolled out plans for a climate policy that includes a phase out of coal power, a price on carbon, and a cap on tar sands emissions.

This announcement is huge. Some people are even calling it historic. But, like a lot of announcements related to climate change these days, it’s historic, it’s game changing — and it’s neither of those things all at the same time.

I don’t mean to be flippant. I want us to be clear-eyed and forward-looking about this announcement. That’s why this email is a bit longer than usual — because we think it’s crucial to understand both what the Alberta climate policy means and what it doesn’t mean.

Here is the good news:

First, this announcement means that Alberta has acknowledged that acting on climate means leaving fossil fuels in the ground. That is, unequivocally, a good thing. The conversation has shifted from one about the inevitable growth of the tar sands to one about the inevitable decline of fossil fuel energy in Canada.

Second: This raises serious questions about the need for new pipelines. Particularly, it begs the question of how any decision can be made on projects under review — like Energy East and Kinder Morgan — without consideration of climate change.

Third: Alberta just leapt ahead of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when it comes to climate ambition. Heading to Paris with Stephen Harper’s negotiating plan isn’t a great position to be in, when the Alberta government comes out with a plan to cap tar sands emissions.

Here is the reality check:

First, an emissions cap and keeping tar sands in the ground are not the same thing. This cap won’t be enough to keep the 85% in the ground necessary to meet the 2ºC limit, which both the governments of Alberta and Canada have committed to. We need legislation that’s in line with the science and keeps fossil fuels in the ground.

A science-based federal climate policy starts with a freeze on tar sands. If you haven’t already done so, click here to tell the Prime Minister that Canada wants an actual freeze on tar sands expansion:

Second: remember that climate policy has been manipulated and undermined by Big Oil time and time again, especially in Alberta. While I would love to believe that the industry has learned its lesson and thrown in the towel on unchecked tar sands expansion, I really doubt it. They’re still Big Oil, after all.

Third: Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Rachel Notley have said that they want climate policies — in order to get pipelines built and sell tar sands to the United States and other international markets. That’s a huge problem. Action on climate change needs to be about standing up for people, not about protecting the interests of polluters.

There are still a lot of questions about how Alberta’s announcement will play out on the ground, especially with regards to Alberta’s commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Still, this is a moment to celebrate. Without the movement that we’ve built together, this announcement would have never been possible.



P.S. This movement that we’ve built together is going to be out in force this weekend for the Global Climate March day of action. There are already over 2,000 events on the map — click here to find one near you or make one happen yourself!

. November 24, 2015 at 2:16 pm

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