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Provincial government making a mess of climate change strategy

Auditor general finds no evidence that environment department knows what’s going on

Michael Ganley is the editor of Alberta Venture. BizBeat takes a big-picture view of the provincial, national and international news affecting Alberta's business community. He can be reached at mganley@albertaventure.com and @MikeatVenture

Jul 9, 2014

by Michael Ganley

Alberta’s auditor general, Merwan Saher, has torn a strip off the provincial government for its almost complete lack of planning and monitoring of the province’s climate change strategy. “We found no evidence that the department regularly monitored performance between 2008 and 2012 against the 2008 strategy targets,” Saher wrote (emphasis mine). He goes on to note that the initial strategy, launched by the Stelmach government, expected to see the majority of the expected reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to come from carbon capture and storage projects. Those have not been going well in the intervening years, having failed to overcome technical and cost hurdles. “The total emissions reductions [from CCS] are expected to be less than 10 per cent of what was originally anticipated,” Saher wrote.

It’s a tremendously disappointing finding at a time when Alberta is under the international microscope because of oil sands development and when we most need to take a leadership role in addressing climate change. Opponents of the oil sands and of its corollary – pipelines – frequently cite the emissions intensity of bitumen extraction. That fair criticism needs to be countered with effective action, which this report makes clear has yet to be taken. We can only hope this becomes an issue in the PC leadership race, and that the provincial government will begin to take its environmental obligations seriously.

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If the government wants some ideas, why not look one province to the west, where B.C. continues to get applause for the broadly-based carbon tax it introduced in 2008 (this time from Ross Beaty, chairman of Pan American Silver and Alterra Power, Richard Lipsey, professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University, and Stewart Elgie, professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa and chair of Sustainable Prosperity.)

I wrote a piece making the business case for a carbon tax last April.

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