Oil sands regulation only the start of the Alberta NDP’s climate action plan

By Arman Kazemi

July 2, 2015

A month after being elected into government, Alberta’s new NDP government has updated and expanded the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER), which was set to expire last Tuesday.

Under the new guidelines, industrial greenhouse gas emitters above 100,000 tonnes will continue to face a reduction quota of 12 per cent below established baselines, as the legislation was originally drafted under the Progressive Conservatives. The following year the requirement will be increased to 15 per cent and a further 20 per cent in 2017.

The NDP government will maintain the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund to oversee industry compliance. Under the present terms of the SGER, industrial emitters who buy into the fund pay $15 per tonne over 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, a figure set to increase to $20 in 2016 and $30 by 2017.

While the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) “appreciates” the Alberta NDP’s efforts to tighten regulations on the oil and gas industry and bring legislation in line with Canada’s climate change commitments, the Calgary-based lobby estimates the SGER, along with recent corporate tax increases, will add costs of around $800 million to industry.

“The changes we saw today will add substantial costs to our industry, but costs which will be driving us to better performance,” said CAPP president Tim McMillan. “We developed the technology to get the oil out of the sand—and we are just as committed to getting our carbon out of the air.”

The Notley government has also announced an advisory panel to consult with Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd on broad-based policy issues ahead of the UN Climate Conference in Paris this December.

According to panel chair Andrew Leach, director of natural resources, energy and environment programs at the University of Alberta’s School of Business, a comprehensive climate change plan needs to include big emitters in addition to other economic actors.

An economy-wide strategy, Leach outlines, would define steps to end fossil fuel-based electricity generation, which has already been achieved in Ontario, while looking towards clean tech and renewables to fill the gap, as Leach suggested in an interview with the CBC.

"If we're going to go to Paris and if the premier is going to be there and hold her head high, we've got to have a good, robust, comprehensive approach to climate change and do our fair share."

In a separate op-ed in Mclean’s, Leach wrote, “while today’s focus will be on the changes to the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation, the panel will consider a much broader suite of potential actions to capitalize on opportunities for greenhouse gas emission reductions in all sectors across the province.”

“It’s a daunting challenge but this is a discussion that is long overdue in Alberta,” he said.



Photo Credit: Shell