Alberta kicks coal to the curb, fate of tar sands remains unclear

Intro

Alberta’s provincial government announced its commitment to phase out coal by 2030 on Sunday, just one day before Canada’s premiers meet to talk climate with the Prime Minister ahead of UN meetings in Paris. According to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, the province’s new climate strategy would allow Alberta to prosper economically all the while putting the environment and the climate at the forefront. Alberta will introduce a carbon pricing model in January 2017, simultaneously accelerating the province’s transition towards clean energy resources. Notley’s plan to strengthen the economy while creating jobs and “doubling down on reducing emissions impacts” comes at a time when Alberta is working to rebuild its reputation as a climate pariah and following US President Barack Obama’s recent labelling of tar sands crude among the world’s “dirtiest” energy sources when he rejected TransCanada Corporation’s bid to run the Keystone XL pipeline through America’s heartland. While Alberta has agreed to cap emissions — including those from tar sands — as part of its new program, the plans have yet to provide clear prospects on the future of existing operations. This historic announcement comes at a time when the global momentum is at an all-time high to keep fossil fuels in the ground and move forward with a just transition towards 100 per cent clean energy resources.

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Key Points

  • Alberta’s bold call to end coal marks a paradigm shift in the province’s narrative when it comes to the climate. Just six months ago, Alberta’s former government was ousted after a 44 year Conservative reign, facing accusations of running the provincial economy into the ground. After suffering from some of the harshest economic impacts of oil volatility during the market slump, Alberta’s new Premier has called for the province to move away from its previous policy mistakes by moving forward towards a prosperous future that doesn’t put the people nor the planet at risk.
  • If Alberta is serious about its commitments to the climate, tar sands and pipelines need to go. Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands are rising faster than the country’s ability to curb them. On Monday, Premiers are meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister ahead of the Paris climate meetings where leaders are expected to deliver an agreement that is accountable to the people and the planet. If Alberta expects to lead the way for provinces as Canada joins the global transition, tar sands projects cannot continue to grow.

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What people are saying in Canada

  • “Today’s announcement by Alberta is a milestone for climate action in Canada. It is the first time Alberta has offered such a comprehensive package, but the growth cap on oil sands is essentially business as usual. More needs to be done to bring Canada’s actions in line with the global need to avoid dangerous global warming. The federal Government must act with courage to responsibly protect the public interest through a national framework that gets Canada on track to doing its fair share to protect the climate.” – Louise Comeau, Executive Director, CAN-Canada
  • “The complete phase-out of coal by 2030 makes clear the government of Alberta’s intention to improve air quality and to tackle one of our highest-emitting fuel sources. Given the international attention on coal as an unnecessary source of pollution, the government of Alberta’s decision not only protects people’s health and saves the province’s health care system hundreds of millions of dollars a year, it gives Alberta the credibility to bring a better message and approach to Paris.” – Ed Whittingham, Executive Director, Pembina Institute
  • “With this historic announcement, Premier Rachel Notley has sent a clear message to the world ahead of the UN climate summit that Albertans are committed to doing their part to combat climate change. Canada’s position at the global talks will be stronger with Alberta counted among the world’s climate problem-solvers…. Alberta’s commitment to invest in climate solutions also sets a constructive and positive tone for the first ministers’ meeting on Monday. Pricing carbon pollution is one of the strongest signals Alberta could send that it is serious about climate action and carbon competitiveness. This was a bold and courageous step that will be applauded internationally.” – Merran Smith, Executive Director, Clean Energy Canada

What people are saying abroad

  • “It’s a new day for Alberta. This historic announcement by Alberta, a carbon rich jurisdiction, to voluntarily constrain their largest source of emissions and commit to a low-carbon pathway, sends a clear and positive signal to the world shortly before the Paris climate summit. This should boost confidence of Canada in the international negotiations.” – Jennifer Morgan, Global Director, Climate Program, World Resources Institute
  • “We do need to win faster. And so I encourage Premier Notley, and all of Alberta, to follow this first step with continued bold action to transition away from fossil fuels.” –  Al Gore, Former US Vice President, Chairman of The Climate Reality Project
  • “Moving off of coal and onto renewables is an essential part of this global energy transition. Alberta has made the right choice in its new plans to act on climate.” – Tim Flannery, PhD., head of the Australia Climate Council and author
  • “Holding Big Oil and governments accountable to these commitments is going to be critical in coming years. We cannot afford new growth in the tar sands: no new pipelines, and no new projects that would lock us into more climate damage and make it ever harder to take the next steps towards decarbonisation. Big Oil will look for loopholes, manipulate rules, and even outright fail to comply as they have for decades in the sector–and civil society and the public will be key to ensuring that they don’t get away with it.” – Hannah McKinnon, Senior Campaigner with Oil Change International

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