Alberta

What’s Stopping Canada from Putting a Price on Carbon?

For the first time in several years, carbon pricing in Canada is back on the national radar.

Recently a group of more than 60 Canadian experts published a report, Acting on Climate Change, that outlined Canada's path to a low-carbon future. Their first recommendation? Put a price on carbon. The idea seems to be gaining serious traction with Canadians, the majority of which support carbon pricing according to a recent Angus Reid poll. 

In the lead up to this month’s Premiers’ Climate Summit in Quebec City, Ontario’s premier Kathleen Wynne announced her province would join Quebec’s cap-and-trade agreement with California — putting major stock in a carbon-pricing solution to provincial emissions.

The conservative Manning Centre conference was praised for holding an “adult conversation” about carbon pricing in March just after a collaboration between oilsands majors and green groups working together for a carbon tax hit the press.

Most Canadians Support Carbon Pricing, See Climate as Election Issue: New Poll

A new poll released today by Angus Reid finds the majority of Canadians support carbon pricing programs and more than half the population would like to see a national climate policy instituted at the federal level.

Although Canadians say they’re ready for climate action, there’s a lot less certainty surrounding climate leadership at the federal level, according to poll results.

There also appears to be some question about the actual impact of a carbon price but, despite the uncertainty, 75 per cent of Canadians support the idea of a national cap and trade program, and 56 per cent support the idea of a national carbon tax.

Currently Canada has a smattering of province-led carbon price initiatives — B.C.’s celebrated carbon tax being perhaps the most notable — although no national program to reduce emissions exists.

How Useful is the Norway Vs. Alberta Comparison?

Think of Norway and your mind likely conjures up a Narnia-like folklore: vikings, salmon, fjords, Svalbard reindeer.

But there’s another element — albeit slightly less fabled — that’s been added to the list recently: the Government Pension Fund Global. It’s also known as the “most successful sovereign wealth fund in the world,” according to a February 2015 report from the MacDonald-Laurier Institute.

It might not be popular enough to inspire a cable television show, but it’s prominent nonetheless.

There’s almost this myth about Norway,” acknowledges Andrew Leach, energy policy professor at University of Alberta, referring to Norway’s sovereign wealth fund.

Over 25,000 March in Quebec Demanding Climate Leadership in Canada

An estimated 25,000 took to the streets of Quebec City Saturday to protest the federal government’s lack of leadership on climate change and unfaltering support for increased production in the Alberta oilsands.

Our message is simple — yes to climate equals no to the tar sands,” Christian Simard, executive direct of Nature Quebec, said. Nature Quebec along with Greenpeace, Equiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation and other eastern Canadian environmental groups organized the demonstration — already being called the largest climate protest in Canada's history.

Demonstrators filled the streets of Quebec City’s historic quarter demanding the nation's premiers be climate leaders and reject proposed pipeline projects like TransCanada’s Energy East and KinderMorgan’s TransMountain.

We don’t want to see the premiers under the cover of a national energy strategy agreeing to help Alberta expand the tar sands. A national energy strategy needs also to be a climate strategy,” Adam Scott, climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence Canada, told DeSmog Canada.

Wolves Scapegoated While Alberta Government Sells Off Endangered Caribou Habitat

Culling Alberta’s wolves without prioritizing caribou habitat protection and restoration is like “shoveling sand,” according to Mark Hebblewhite, associate professor of ungulate habitat biology at the University of Montana.

Hebblewhite says the Alberta government is sponsoring a wolf cull without doing the one thing that could possibly scientifically justify it: conserving and restoring critical caribou habitat.

That’s the tragedy here: the Alberta government blew the opportunity to do the right thing,” he said.

It’s all shoveling sand without real commitment to habitat conservation.”

Alberta’s New Head of Climate Change Plan, Diana McQueen, Blows Smoke While Province Fails to Act

We will continue to have a strong economy while meeting the 2020 [climate] targets … and we will meet those.”

It was a bewildering statement, like something out of a poorly scripted political drama. The idea that within the next five years, Alberta  the province responsible for over 35 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2012  would meet its emissions targets would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic.

But that’s what was said.

And by Diana McQueen, a former minister of environment, no less. By the very person who’s now leading the revision of the province’s oft-delayed climate change framework.

Back in 2008, the Alberta government, then headed by Progressive Conservative leader Ed Stelmach, brought forward a fairly weighty climate change strategy. Goals were set, policies outlined.

Our targets,” wrote Stelmach, “are based on sound research not wishful thinking.”

The strategy promised that by 2020, the province’s annual emissions would fall by 50 megatonnes below “business-as-usual” numbers  in 2008, that number was  232 megatonnes per year.

But according to Environment Canada’s most recent projections for emissions, Alberta’s annual output will instead grow to 287 megatonnes a year — an overall increase of 55 megatonnes, which means that the target (a 12 per cent increase from the 2005 number) will be missed by a full 27 Mt.

Development of Oilsands Incompatible with 2C Global Warming Limit: New Study

Alberta oilsands, tar sands, Fort McMurray, climate, Kris Krug

A new study published today in the journal Nature finds the vast majority – 99 per cent – of Canada’s oilsands are “unburnable” if the world is to avoid a global temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius. 

The study, co-authored by Christophe McGlade and Paul Ekins, also found over 80 per cent of the world’s current coal reserves and half of all gas reserves similarly need to remain unused. 

Given changing market conditions that are already making the production of expensive and carbon-intensive fossil fuel reserves – like oilsands crude – more difficult, the authors concluded that a concerted effort to limit global warming would result in a massive drop in Canadian oil production.

The extraction of bitumen would “drop to negligible levels after 2020 in all scenarios because it is considerably less economic than other methods of production,” the report states.

Ontario Backs Down From Full Assessment of Energy East's Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Jim Prentice and Kathleen Wynne

Ontario will not look at greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands industry in deciding whether to support TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project. The province will only consider emissions in Ontario from the proposed pipeline according to an announcement by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Wednesday.

Ontario’s review of the Energy East pipeline will not have credibility unless emissions in Alberta are taken into account,” Adam Scott, climate and energy program manager with Environmental Defence Canada, told DeSmog Canada.

Wynne’s announcement in Toronto comes during a visit from Alberta Premier Jim Prentice to discuss Quebec and Ontario’s seven conditions for the 1.1 million barrel-per-day proposed pipeline. Ontario and Quebec have stated in their conditions “the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions” from Energy East must be taken into account.

Alberta Premier Prentice Lobbies For Energy East in Ontario and Quebec

Jim Prentice

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice begins an Energy East lobby tour today in Quebec City to try to woo the premiers of Quebec and Ontario into supporting TransCanada's 1.1 million barrel-per-day oil pipeline proposal.

It is a sign the project is in danger,” Patrick Bonin, a Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner based in Montreal, told DeSmog Canada. “Over 70 per cent of Quebecers don’t want Energy East to be built.”

Ontario and Quebec announced last month that Energy East would have to meet seven conditions to gain the provinces' approval of the 4,600-kilometer pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick. Included in these conditions is a demand for a full environmental assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the pipeline.

Environment Canada Study Reveals Oilsands Tailings Ponds Emit Toxins to Atmosphere at Much Higher Levels than Reported

There are more than 176 square kilometres of tailings ponds holding waste from oilsands development in the area around Fort McMurray, Alberta. According to new research released from Environment Canada, those tailings ponds are emitting much higher levels of toxic and potentially cancer-causing contaminants into the air than previously reported.

As the Canadian Press reports, Environment Canada scientist Elisabeth Galarneau is the first to conduct field studies in the region and her research confirms that previous estimates of chemical release into the air have been massively underestimated.

We found that there actually does appear to be a net flow of these compounds going from water to air,” Galarneau told the Canadian Press. “It’s just a bit under five times higher from the ponds than what’s been reported.”

A previous study used modeling to estimate potential chemical release, but Galarneau’s study, published recently in the journal of Atmospheric Environment, relied on air samples and filters located in the study region.

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