Alberta releases its new Climate Leadership Plan

Alberta releases its new Climate Leadership Plan

The Alberta Government released its long anticipated Climate Leadership Plan yesterday. The policy is based upon the recommendations made by the Climate Change Advisory Panel Report and focuses on four key areas for further development:

  • implementing a new carbon price on greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution,
  • phasing out coal-generated electricity and developing more renewable energy,
  • legislating an oil-sands emissions limit, and
  • employing a new methane emission reduction plan.

Carbon pricing forms the “backbone of [the] proposed architecture” (Report, page 5). In this regard, the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan will impose a carbon tax of $20 per tonne starting in January 2016 which will increase to $30 per tonne in January 2018. The carbon tax will be applied across all sectors in a manner similar to the systems used in Quebec and California (and soon in Ontario).

The revenue derived from the carbon tax will be used for defined purposes that are designed to reduce GHG pollution. These include offsetting impacts on low and middle income households, supporting the transition needs of workers and communities, investing in complimentary policies designed to reduce emission intensity, and providing fiscal capacity for other government priorities including infrastructure.

Another key element of the Climate Leadership Plan is to phase out coal-fired electrical generation by 2030. The goal is to replace two-thirds of this electrical generation capacity with renewable energy and one-third with natural gas. In the meantime, coal-fired generators will be subject to the $30 per tonne carbon tax on emissions above those created by Alberta’s cleanest natural gas-fired plant producing the same amount of electricity.

The Climate Leadership Plan also includes a transition to performance-based standards and a legislated limit to oil-sands emissions. This means that the $30 per tonne carbon tax will be applied to oil sands facilities based upon the results already achieved by high performing facilities. Further, an annual limit of 100 Mt from the oil-sands sector will be imposed by legislation.

Recognizing the significant climate change impact of methane, the Climate Leadership Plan seeks to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations by 45% by 2025. This will be achieved by applying new emissions design standards to new oil and gas operations. As well, action will be taken to address the emissions arising from venting and flaring, and fugitive emissions from existing facilities.

We note that, in addition to those items adopted in the Climate Leadership Plan as described above, the Report discusses the importance of energy efficiency and energy-resilient communities and recommends that a provincial energy efficiency and community-based energy program be developed (page 8-9, Report). We hope that this recommendation will also be adopted as part of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan. Further, we note there likely will be a need to develop policy designed to facilitate climate change adaptation.

However, overall, the ELC is pleased that the Climate Leadership Plan takes a robust, ambitious and multi-pronged approach to reduce GHG emissions across all sectors.

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