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Alberta’s First NDP Climate Victory May Have Nothing to Do With the Oilsands and Everything to Do With Coal

Back in March when the prospect of a majority NDP government in Alberta was still a twinkle in Rachel Notley’s eye, the to-be premier introduced a motion to phase out the province’s use of coal for electricity by 2030.

The evidence is clear that it is time to phase out coal powered electricity in the province in Alberta. Coal is one of the single largest pollutants in Alberta. It costs our health care millions of dollars every year and is a massive source of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, urging then premier Jim Prentice and the Progressive Conservative party to “do the right thing.”

So now that Notley has taken the reins, will she follow through with her own ambitious plan?

Experts Slow Clap for Canada’s Late and 'Inadequate' Climate Target

Months after most countries revealed national climate targets in the lead up to the December 2015 UN climate summit, Canada has finally announced its contribution to global emissions reductions — and its commitment is getting a failing grade from the climate community.

The NewClimate Institute rated Canada's target as “inadequate.”

In rating Canada ‘inadequate,’ our lowest rating, we note that other governments will have to take a lot more action to make up for the hole left by Canada’s lack of ambition — if warming is to be held to 2˚C,” said Niklas Höhne of the institute.

Canada is promising to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

According to Climate Action International, Canada is unlikely to meet that target, even though it is much weaker than commitments made by other industrial nations.

B.C.’s Prized Carbon Tax: A Primer

B.C.’s carbon tax has been called both elegant and a template for the rest of the world. Because it increases taxes on things we don’t want (emissions), reduces taxes on things we do want (income), is popular with the public and has actually worked to reduce the province’s carbon footprint, it’s been called a win-win-win-win.

So how does it work?

Pretty simply: if you burn fossil fuels (oil, gasoline, natural gas, etc.), you pay the tax. British Columbians see the tax on their heating bills and at the pump when they fill up their cars. But because the system is designed to be revenue neutral, British Columbians also see the benefits of the tax feeding back into the system, benefiting consumers through tax credits and breaks.

Every dollar collected by the government through the tax (approximately $1 billion annually) is funnelled back to the people of B.C.

Cap and Trade in Quebec and Ontario: A Primer

Cap and trade is in the new kid in town as far as carbon pricing goes in Canada. In April, just before the Premiers' Climate SummitOntario made headlines by announcing it will join Quebec’s cap and trade system, which is linked to cap and trade in California.

So just how does it work? Here's our short primer.

The system was first adopted by Quebec in 2013 (although it’s worth noting the province did impose a tax on gas and diesel fuel back in 2007).

The benefits of emissions trading, beyond ensuring the climate goal is reached in a measurable manner, is that business has flexible compliance options and ‘carrots’ — incentives for making smart, economic business decisions,” Katie Sullivan, director for North America and Climate Finance at the International Emissions Trading Association, said.

Like Alberta’s carbon levy, Quebec’s system puts a price on emissions above a certain level.

'Woe is Us': Oil Industry a Hot Mess After NDP Alberta Victory

While Jim Prentice and his Progressive Conservative cadre lick their wounds after last night’s landslide victory by the New Democratic Party and leader Rachel Notley, punditry about the oil industry’s place in the transformed province is in full force.

Even before the results were in, Canadians were being warned new leadership in Canada’s oilpatch will mean very scary things for the economy: fleeing investors, abandoned projects, market uncertainty.

Now that the victory bells have rung, the hand-wringing has leveled up.

The NDP win is “completely devastating,” for the energy industry, Rafi Tahmazian, fund manager for Canoe Financial LP, told Bloomberg.

The oil patch will pack up and leave,” Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Herald’s editorial page, tweeted. “Woe is us.”

Yet many other onlookers are saying fresh leadership in Alberta could bring long-overdue policy changes that not only benefit a broader cross-section of society, but industry itself, by remedying systemic imbalances that have granted an unhealthy amount of power to oil interests for far too long.

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.

The Faulty Logic Behind the Argument That Canada's Emissions Are a ‘Drop in the Bucket'

At the premiers' climate summit this week, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall brought up a statistic that has received a fair amount of attention lately: Canada’s emissions account for fewer than two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

He's not wrong, but used as an argument against doing our part to combat climate change, his point does contain some flawed logic.

“Showing leadership matters, signals matter, examples matter, but the numbers are the numbers,” Wall said.

Essentially, Wall appears to be suggesting that because no single action by itself will solve the problem, we shouldn’t take that single action.

Applying this logic to other situations reveals just how faulty it is.

How is Your Province Acting on Climate? A Primer for the Premiers' Climate Summit

In the lead up to December’s UN climate talks in Paris, most countries are approaching their promised emission reductions with new national regulations. Canada’s Conservative government is taking a different path.

Instead of considering a federal carbon tax, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq has asked premiers to submit their own cuts and how they will achieve them. In a letter submitted to all premiers on Friday afternoon, Minister Aglukkaq notes that Canada is falling far short of its promised 2020 emission cuts and suggests it is up to individual provinces to fill in the gaps.

Those reductions — plus working out the details of the Canadian Energy Strategy — form the agenda for Tuesday’s Premiers' Climate Summit on Climate in Quebec City.

Top 3 Myths About Greening Canada’s Economy

This is a guest post by Sustainable Prosperity, a national green economy think tank.

This is a big week for Canadian energy and climate policy, with Monday’s Canadian Round Table on the Green Economy and Tuesday’s premiers’ climate summit. With all the talk of a “green economy,” we’re releasing a new video explaining what that ubiquitous term really means.  

What better time than now to bust a few myths about the “what” and the “how” of a greener Canadian economy?

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