Alberta to implement carbon tax in climate change policy

The levy would start at $20 a tonne of greenhouse gases in 2017 and will move to $30 a tonne the next year

(Nathan Denette/CP)

(Nathan Denette/CP)

EDMONTON – Alberta has released its long-awaited report on climate change policy that includes a carbon tax that would apply across the economy.

The levy would start at $20 a tonne of greenhouse gases in 2017 and will move to $30 a tonne the next year.

The government is moving to phase out the province’s coal-fired power generation by 2030.

“This is the day we step up, at long last, to one of the world’s biggest problems — the pollution that is causing climate change,” Premier Rachel Notley said as she announced her government’s new policy in Edmonton on Sunday.

“Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity and it demands an effective response.”

The provincial New Democrats will also cap greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands at 100 megatonnes, which leaves plenty of room to expand the industry.

Notley will take the plan to a meeting of first ministers in Ottawa on Monday and to an international gathering in Paris at the end of the month.

The plan’s success is seen as critical to improving Alberta’s environmental reputation and in improving acceptance of the province’s energy exports.

Notley noted the importance of the energy industry to the economy, but she said previous inaction on climate change played a role in President Barack Obama’s decision to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

She acknowledged the presence of industry and environmental representatives who were also at the announcement with her.

Murray Edwards of Canadian Natural Resources Limited, who took the stage immediately after Notley, said it’s a difficult time for the oil and gas industry and said the targets the NDP government are setting are “ambitious.” But he said they would allow innovation and growth in the oil industry to continue while also addressing climate change.

“This plan recognizes the need for a balance between the environment and the economy. One that should provide greater predictablity for both the industry and the province on a go-forward basis,” Edwards said.

Notley promised to work in co-operation with companies that generate, regulate and distribute electricity in Alberta to help east the burden of their transition away from coal, and she also pledged to make sure power prices remain stable for consumers.

Two-thirds of coal generation will be replaced with renewable energy, she said. Money collected through the carbon price will be invested into measures to reduce pollution, and to help families, small businesses and First Nations working in the coal industry.

The announcement is the result of months of consultation and study by an expert panel convened to help the government write the policy. Andrew Leach, a University of Alberta energy economist, led the panel, which received thousands of pages of submissions from citizens, industry and environmental groups.

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