Alberta climate plan still in progress days before expected release

'We will have our announcements ready to go in the coming days,' says Alberta environment minister

EDMONTON – The federal government is counting on Alberta to come up with a realistic climate-change plan, although it still hasn’t seen any details just days before the start of an international meeting on the issue.

“We haven’t seen the plan,” federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Wednesday in Edmonton. “We certainly trust that Alberta will come up with a credible plan. Everyone’s got to do their part.”

McKenna met with her provincial counterpart in advance of a trip to Paris for a meeting of global leaders on climate change. She said the visit was one of several meetings with the provinces to get a better idea of what each jurisdiction faces as Ottawa tries to develop a national framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said her government’s plan is still a work in progress, days before its anticipated release.

“We’re considering many of our options and receiving advice from (our advisory) panel,” she said. “We are examining all the ways we price carbon in this province.

“We will have our announcements ready to go in the coming days.”

Phillips praised what she called a new approach from Ottawa.

“It’s quite refreshing to have a productive relationship with the federal government, (which wants) to exercise the same kind of leadership on economy and environment that we do.”

During her trip to Edmonton, McKenna met with mayor Don Iveson as well as energy companies and environmental groups. Around the table were representatives from Suncor, Enbridge, Cenovus, the Pembina Institute, the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice.

“Everyone recognizes that everyone has a role to play,” McKenna said. “It was really heartening.”

The meeting took place the same day the Ecofiscal Commission, a privately funded group of some of Canada’s top economists, released a report that found Alberta and Saskatchewan would be the most affected by a carbon price. Phillips said the province is considering policies to help industries adjust.

“This is about being carbon competitive and providing the right incentives to do so,” she said. “There are a number economic instruments that one might employ.”

Both ministers emphasized hard work on climate change will begin after the Paris conference. McKenna said Ottawa will meet with the provinces within 90 days to hammer out what she called a national framework.

“We understand that each province is going to have to come up with its own plan and it’s going to have to do (its) part. We’re going to have a national target and each province and territory is going to contribute their part.”

Ottawa will do what it can to support the provinces through financing or other measures such as the green infrastructure plan. That plan, part of the Liberal government’s election campaign platform, promises spending on waste water upgrades, renewable energy grids and improved dams and other facilities to withstand extreme weather events.

Phillips emphasized that environmental and economic policies have to work together.

“We have to have credible, carbon-competitive policies that we can take to our trading partners to ensure that market access for Canadian oilsands products.”

Canada’s climate policy will have five elements, McKenna said: moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy, a price on carbon, improved building efficiency, increased public and electric transport and further technical innovation.

— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960

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