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Inaction on climate change bad news for Alberta

Posted on June 03, 2014 by Greg Clark

They say bad news comes in threes.

The fact is strong environmental policy is a pro industry policy.

Here's why.

Whether we like it or not, the world is using Alberta's development of our oilsands as a proxy in the fight against climate change, in large part because our transparent regulatory reporting system requires Alberta producers to report the impacts of their operations.

When compared to large emitters like China, Russia or the US, carbon emissions from Alberta's oilsands contribute a tiny fraction to the global carbon load, yet we are struggling to get access to market for our energy resources in large part because of Alberta's inaction on climate change.

It may not be fair, but it presents Alberta with a huge opportunity to become a world leader in reducing the impact of energy production.

If only we had a government willing to take action.

Alberta has a choice to make. We can either fight a public relations war, one we are losing badly, or we can get ahead of the problem and become world leaders in reducing carbon, become champions of renewable and alternative energy, reduce the use of fresh water in energy production and eliminate tailings, all while addressing the social impacts of oilsands development.

The cornerstone of this is a higher price on carbon. Alberta's current carbon price works out to just $0.10 per barrel, which doesn't provide enough of an economic incentive to implement carbon reduction measures. Most companies see this as a cost of doing business and simply pay the carbon tax without meaningfully reducing carbon emissions.

A higher carbon price paired with a requirement to purchase offsets in Alberta (currently emitters can buy carbon offsets from the US and elsewhere), achieves two things. First, it adjusts the economics of oilsands (and other large emitters) so reducing carbon emissions becomes a rational economic choice, and second, creates demand for renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal right here in Alberta.

If bad things come in threes perhaps good things can as well. If Alberta takes real, meaningful action on environmental policy we can overcome the negative perception of our oilsands, develop world-class technologies and kick-start Alberta's renewable energy industry. All of this leads to sustainable economic prosperity and good jobs for generations to come, which is good for industry, good for Albertans and good for the world.

Strong environment policy is pro industry policy. It also happens to be the right thing to do.

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  • commented 2014-06-12 14:19:16 -0600
    Thanks Roger…I agree action is needed on a national level but that’s no excuse for Alberta not to lead.
  • commented 2014-06-07 15:11:19 -0600
    Nice quick summary of the pickle we’re in, Greg Clark. Personally, however, I think that the best approach on carbon pricing is at the national level. I’m working at sparking off a high-profile event here in Calgary in the first half of 2015 to debate openly about the whole gamut. It’s a goal I’ve had for a couple of years, but now I’ve found a couple of think tanks curious about my idea and, with a couple of friends and one champion working with me from industry, it’s nice to be picking up some momentum.

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