Thursday, March 8, 2007

Alberta first province to legislate greenhouse gas reductions

Yes, that's right... not the tree-huggers in BC, not the oh-so-morally superior Ontario government, not the self-appointed guardians of the environment in Quebec - Alberta.

First, the statement. Then, the analysis.

Alberta is the first province in Canada to introduce legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emission intensity from large industry.

Bill 3, Climate Change and Emissions Management Amendment Act and its accompanying Specified Gas Emitters Regulation state companies that emit more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year must reduce their emissions intensity by 12 per cent starting July 1, 2007.

The move reflects Premier Ed Stelmach's priority to manage growth pressures in Alberta. "This government is committed to tackling the issue of climate change, and this is just one of many ways we are responding,'' said Ed Stelmach. "We can embrace economic growth and also be good stewards of our environment, of our province."

The Specified Gas Emitters Regulation details how companies can reduce their emissions intensity. These compliance options include making operating improvements, buying an Alberta-based offset to apply against their emission total or contributing to a new government fund that will invest in technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the province.

"I believe technology is key to delivering on Albertans' vision for emission management. By dedicating a technology fund right here in Alberta, we are able to draw on our own renewable resource of innovation," said Environment Minister Rob Renner.

Projects that qualify as offsets must be located in Alberta and spending from the technology fund will occur in the province. The technology fund could be used to further the development of carbon capture and management- an option which has great potential to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases worldwide.

"This legislation once again affirms that Alberta is a leader on this important global issue," said Renner. "Albertans are very responsible people. We are proud of our majestic province and quick to take practical, thoughtful and innovative action to protect it."

Alberta was the first province to introduce specific climate change legislation in 2002 and the first to require large industrial facilities to report their greenhouse gas emissions.

Okay... so the government knows how much these large facilities are emitting, and they're expecting them to reduce by 12%. I'm a little foggy on whether the reductions need to be AT 12% by July 1, or whether they need to START the reductions by July 1. Either way, reductions are a good thing. Those who can't reduce will be held to task, and can make up for it by donating to or investing in clean energy alternatives, etc. in a similar vein to the "Carbon Neutrality" being championed by David Suzuki, among others.

Is 12% a huge deal? Not really. It works out to approximately 8% of Alberta's total emissions (the companies required to reduce their emissions account for roughly 70% of Alberta's total emissions), and that's only IF all the required companies made their reduction targets, which is a pipe-dream. The environmental lobby will be all over this, saying it's piss-poor and inadequate, no good, terrible, and a sign of the apocalypse. What they will FAIL to mention, no doubt, is that Ed Stelmach, the Premier of Alberta, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he of "No Green Bones" (as described by a Doctor, so it must be true), were the men who announced the first provincial legislation to reduce emissions.

Let's be frank, here... the reduction level is small. The total impact on the environment will be negligible, and will likely not be noticed in the lifetime of anyone old enough to read this blog. But it's SOMETHING... it's a START. And it's more than anyone else has done so far. Alberta's PC Government, with the help of the evil, tree-hating Conservative government in Ottawa, has announced legislated emission reduction targets. And although the environmentalists will bitch and moan (what they do best) about how inadequate it is... it's still 100% better than anyone else in the country. So they can go to the 9 other provinces and 3 territories, get reduction targets into legislation in THOSE jurisdictions, and THEN come back to Alberta and tell us our targets aren't good enough. Until then... our targets might not be great, but they're still better than anyone else's.

- ES


Anonymous said...

Well gee isn't that coincidental that it comes out at the exact same time as this announcement.
Funny eh?
Nice to see our tax dollars being given to big oil. I can see they really needed the money.

Anonymous said...

It's about time. Since the province is the largest emitter of green house gases, it should be the first to regulate them, no?

Alberta is growing up, finally.

Enlightened Savage said...

Anonymous: Alberta IS the largest contributor of Greenhouse Gases in the country. They SHOULD be the first to regulate them. And they HAVE.

Which, at the risk of repeating myself, is more than any other government in the nation, including the 2nd largest emitter, Blessed Ontario, has done. So if Alberta is "finally growing up", how would you characterize Dalton McGuinty's failure to act on his province's emissions? A second childhood? A Dead-beat dad?

And with all possible due respect... when one of the "kids" in the household is one of the top 2 contributors to the family's income, I'd think there would be a little less of a tendancy to look down one's nose and declare that they're "finally growing up".

Enlightened Savage said...

Woman at Mile 0: Thanks for your comments. Although we don't agree on much, I find your thoughts on many issues insightful, if not altogether in keeping with my own.

That said, this money referred to in the story you posted isn't going to "Big Oil", it's being spent on public science - to find methods of reducing emissions, so that we can turn to "Big Oil" and say "Here's the blueprint for how to reduce your emissions. We did the science. Go reduce. Now." If we leave it to the market, there will be countless millions spent (of Big Oil's money, so not that anyone would be devastated by the expenditure) to find the cheapest way to get around reduction targets. Far better, I think, that we let the public purse be opened to research a technology that will be used for the benefit of all... after all, if you let the companies themselves spend their own money, you're going to end up with dozens of ideas put into practice, some possibly more harmful than the emissions we're trying to eliminate. Remember the electric car, or the gas-less car that runs on water? Me, neither. Because the market did the research, and Big Oil held the designs down. I'd rather have scientists reporting to the Government (and, by proxy, to *us*) studying reduction methods than scientists reporting to Exxon. But that's just me.

- ES

Steve V said...

Reduction my ass. Alberta is proposing reducing "intensity" levels for big polluters, which means that emissions will still rise with growth. 12% reduction in intensity is a joke when you consider 3 to 4 fold increases in tarsand production, which Stelmach favors.

Don't get me wrong, it's a start, but don't spin this as some revolutionary program, well ahead of everyone. Stelmach has too move, to avoid others moving for him, so he wraps himself around the illusion of intensity targets. This plan DOES NOT reduce emissions, to characterize it as such is misleading. It just slows down the unacceptable.

Enlightened Savage said...

Steve: Fair ball - this plan won't reduce emissionas overall, and it won't repair the damage. It will just slow down the acceleration of the damage, which makes as much of a difference as it does sense. BUT... the fact remains that, revolutionary, world-saving or not, it's more than the other 12 jurisdictions in Canada have done. So the environmental lobby comes off as looking like little more than Alberta-haters when they waste their breath whining about how poor Alberta's plan is when the rest of the country, including Ontario, has NOTHING in place. As I said before: Get legislation passed in the other 12, THEN come back and tell Alberta to make theirs better. Because right now, the national average for reduction of intensity is 0.9% (Alberta's 12%, plus nothing, divided by 13)... so Alberta's 12% ain't half bad by comparison.

Steve V said...

Didn't you read B.C's proposals? Far, far more ambitious, so your point is mute. Also, where are GHG emissions supposed to rise in the future, which province is that? The growth of GHG is Alberta outpaces the rest of the country, so it is natural to look at the source. Get over the "Alberta haters" crutch, it has nothing to do with that, it's simple logic. Nobody hates Alberta, as someone who has lived in both regions, I would say the "hate" is clearly a one side affair.

Enlightened Savage said...

Steve: I'd be happy to read BC's proposals, and blog on what I find there.

As for the "Alberta hater crutch", not for a moment do I believe the rest of the country is out to "get us". Clearly, the family dynamic at the Candian Dinner Table is a complicated one, with plenty of blame to spread around on all sides. However, even the coverage of Alberta's announcement in the typically slack mainstream media has been geared towards printing 2 paragraphs from the government, and then running on for half of a page with interviews of environmentalists and think-tanks screaming about what a piss-poor plan it is. MY point is, the plan is far from perfect, but it's more than anyone else is proposing, so it's the best one out there to date, despite its falws, despite Alberta's redneck image, and despite the current levels of emissions.

Look, the environment is an emotional issue, because we ALL reap the rewards, but we also all suffer the consequences. Rampant industrialization around the globe has resulted in unprecedented damage to our environment, and there's little doubt, even in the PMO, that we are at least partly to blame for that as a species. The lion's share of humanity's blame goes to the industrialized nations, and Canada's largest contributor to the problem is Alberta. No argument from me there. But, as I've pointed out before, the environment is one of MY big issues, too. I'm as green as you can get in these parts without holding a membership card or running as a candidate for the party - which, who knows, I might well do someday. But considering te government that Canada has at this time, and considering the government that Alberta has at this time, this plan - HOWEVER flawed - is a small step for man but a GIANT leap for Albertan-kind. Once we get a legislative foot in the door, there's no telling where things can go. But I WILL tell you this: This plan is not going to fix things, and it's not going to make our lives any better in the near or distant future. As a WEDGE, though? It might be just what we need to get things started... and the professional environmental lobbyists might want to consider how unlikely this plan was even 5 years ago, and the fact that it's coming from ALBERTA, of all places, before they crap on it too heavily. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield: "I ain't much, but I'm the best she's got until she can find better."

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve:

Let's see if BC actually follows through on their plan. There a big difference between rhetoric and action. The proof will be in the pudding.

I didn't see any money for the plan in their provincial budget, nor has BC proposed legislation or brought forward regulations.

Alberta has done both. As they say, the devil is in the details.

If you think Alberta's legislation and regulations aren't tough enough, how do you explain Don Braid's column in the Calgary Herald last Friday? I don't believe Mr. Braid is any apologist for the oil and gas industry in Alberta.

Anonymous said...

It is maybe worth noting that Elizabeth May - Ms. Green herself - publicly praised Stelmach's plan in the paper (Calgary Herald) a few days ago. Same with the Green Party's provincial wing. They said the same - it is a start.

Wasn't there a saying about a journey of even a thousand miles begins with a single step?

Leanne said...

I completely agree with this post ES, I think the Harper-Stelmach coalition has done some good here.

The BC proposals are just that. Proposals. It is easy to propose great things and never get anything accomplished. If each province at least started somewhere, it would be easier to see how each works and collaborate as a country to find the best solution to our environmental woes.

This is a start for Alberta and we can only move forward. 12% reduction in intensity levels now coupled with research on more ways to cut emissions can lead to big things. Not only in Alberta, not only in Canada, but world-wide.

Alberta has long since prided itself on being progressive and here it goes demonstrating this. Between this and all of the CAMRIF announcements for "green" infrastructure which have been putting such things as an energy-efficient fire hall in Sangudo, wastewater treatment in Drayton Valley, hybrid buses in Strathcona and wetlands in Edmonton (among many other projects along the same lines)... it's definitely a start.