Alberta won't tolerate Ottawa's GHG emissions cap

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Alberta and two major business groups have issued official responses to proposed federal emissions limits as the province’s environment minister is scheduled to meet with his federal counterpart.

The province’s official response reads, “This cap is neither realistic nor effective, will not achieve its lofty emissions targets and will not be tolerated in Alberta.”

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbault was scheduled to meet with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas Minister Rebecca Schultz on Monday.

Guilbeault said Ottawa will impose a 100-megatonne limit on emissions from the tar sands, which is the source of about 8 per cent of all Canadian emissions and one of the few sources that is steadily increasing.

Minister Guilbault’s plan will provide some flexibility to individual businesses through the purchase of credits.

Alberta’s concerns were echoed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Business Council of Alberta, a large business lobby group.

All three argue that emissions limits would result in countermeasures to the goals.

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“There are other existing and proposed policies that would more effectively contribute to Canada’s long-term emissions reduction goals,” the association wrote.

The council said these targets would be “best achieved through a strong and transparent carbon price”.

Alberta’s official response to Ottawa’s proposal said the cap would undermine work the province has successfully done “for decades” to reduce emissions.

It says oil sands production has already exceeded the forecasts used to establish the proposed 100 megaton limit and the technology needed to adequately reduce emissions does not yet exist.

The document reiterates arguments that Ottawa’s plan violates the Constitution.

The price of oil is in danger

Alberta is one of the few places in North America where greenhouse gas emissions are increasing and is by far Canada’s largest emitter. The tar sands have recently set production records and remain one of the most carbon-emitting oil producers in the world.

Economists agree that production limits may not be the most economically efficient way to meet Canada’s climate goals set by the Paris Agreement.

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Energy economist Andrew Leach of the University of Alberta says targeting tar sands could mean Canada would lose the value of oil produced. Reducing emissions elsewhere could have the same climate impact at a lower cost – a goal that could be achieved through a larger and broader carbon tax.

Mr. Leach said in an interview that about 90% of emissions from agriculture are incalculable, even though the industry emits about the same amount of carbon as tar sands.

“You can’t solve this problem in Canada by just attacking one area,” he said.

Still, Leach said Alberta’s reasoning also isn’t entirely consistent.

Although it has imposed a carbon price on industrial emissions since 2004, Leach said the province opposes measures such as clean fuel standards and electricity grid deregulation.

“A commitment to reducing emissions goes hand in hand with an opposition to any policy that reduces emissions,” he explained.

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He said Alberta’s constitutional argument is weakened by its anti-capping position. Although the Supreme Court recently ruled against two federal environmental initiatives, those decisions don’t provide much support for Alberta’s argument on emissions limits, he said.

The court has ruled in the past that Ottawa can regulate greenhouse gases. It’s also difficult for Alberta to argue that the federal government has no jurisdiction over anything that affects production, Leach said — pipeline regulation is an example.

In an emailed statement, Steven Guilbault said: “Capping pollution is essential for the long-term competitiveness of the oil and gas sector in a global economy that is moving towards net zero emissions by 2050. We will continue to consult.” As we develop our approach, the area. No industry should be allowed to pollute indefinitely and we hope the Alberta government understands how beneficial and necessary this policy is for our environment and economy.

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