Alison Redford giveth and Alison Redford taketh away

The Alberta Premier's nuanced position on carbon pricing

The Alberta Premier came to Ottawa and, surely to the delight of the Harper government, ripped Thomas Mulcair. Then she went and endorsed—or seemed to endorse—a carbon tax.

On the environment, Redford said she would like to see the federal government adopt a strategy similar to Alberta’s $15-per-tonne carbon levy on large industrial emitters that are unable to meet their greenhouse-gas reduction targets, with the cash then used to improve environmental outcomes. “We think that’s the right approach,” Redford said, when asked whether Ottawa should introduce a federal carbon levy on large emitters.

Alberta’s carbon tax of sorts has generated more than $300 million for a technology fund used to green operations and improve environmental performance. “The federal government needs to be supportive of that policy (setting a carbon price) in areas where it can actually make a difference to the outcome. Simply symbolically setting a price doesn’t actually achieve an outcome,” she added. “So I think it’s fine to set targets, I think it’s time to be supportive of sectors that are looking to try to reduce emissions and to be able to partner together on that.”

But Ms. Redford’s office now says that she wasn’t quite endorsing a national carbon tax.

Premier Alison Redford did not advocate for a national carbon tax as today’s PostMedia story implies. The Premier was clear that Alberta’s climate change actions to date—including the creation of a fund for clean technology projects—have been successful and are driving innovation. Clean technology initiatives are worthy of consideration as the federal government develops new greenhouse gas emission regulations for the oil and gas industry.

John Baird once bragged of plans to establish a clean technology fund with the proceeds of a $15-per-tonne carbon price, but the Harper government has since decided that any price on carbon is a carbon tax.

But then Ms. Redford also prefers her province’s carbon levy to a cap-and-trade system (another policy the Harper government used to support).

Redford, however, doesn’t believe a widespread cap-and-trade emissions reduction scheme is necessary or the best approach for the federal government, questioning whether it would actually be effective in reducing emissions. “The goal is not to do something as a PR stunt; it’s to actually do something that is going to make a difference to outcomes. It can be a price on carbon, it can be work on consumer policies, energy efficiency, dealing with greening the (electricity) grid, that kind of thing,” she said.

But then the Alberta NDP doesn’t think the province’s carbon levy is sufficient.

“The ad is extremely misleading with respect to Alberta’s environmental record. It says that we have put a price on carbon. What we have is a very low price put on carbon intensity emissions,” Mason said.