Alberta to Boost Carbon Price Ahead of Climate Policy Revamp

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Alberta will increase its carbon price for industrial emitters, the first step in revamping climate regulations to curb greenhouse-gas output from coal plants and oil-sands production.

The price will rise to C$20 ($16) a metric ton next year, from C$15 now, and will increase to C$30 in 2017, when the rules will expire, the environment ministry said in a statement Thursday. The government will also begin a climate-policy review led by University of Alberta Professor Andrew Leach to prepare recommendations ahead of the United Nations climate talks in Paris later this year.

Alberta was one of the first places in the developed world to implement a carbon tax in 2007, with a policy that contributes proceeds from the levy to a technology fund. Premier Rachel Notley’s government, elected in May, has said the province needs to be a leader in climate policy in order to support the oil-sands industry that has been criticized for its environmental impact.

“We need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions with a plan that is real,” said Environment Minister Shannon Phillips in a briefing with journalists. “We were not taken seriously and with this, that will change.”

Technology, energy efficiency and renewable energy are key to future emissions reductions, Phillips said.

The existing carbon regulations applied to about 45 percent of emissions in the province, with coal-generated power plants accounting for the greatest amount of CO2 output. A total of 6 million tons of CO2 emissions will be eliminated over the next two years because of the new regulations, the ministry said.

Faster Reductions

With the new regulations, large emitters will be required to reduce emissions by 15 percent next year and 20 percent in 2017, compared with a 12 percent reduction this year.

Notley will build on efforts begun by her predecessor Jim Prentice to rehabilitate the tarnished reputation of Canada’s oil-sands industry. The planned expansion of crude output has been hampered by a lack of export pipelines like Keystone XL and opponents that have focused on the higher carbon emissions of extracting and processing bitumen, a thick fossil fuel mined or steamed out of underground reserves.

Payments into the province’s carbon management fund reached almost C$580 by the end of last year, the environment ministry said.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute, in an e-mailed statement. “Of course, it will take more than the changes announced today for Alberta to credibly do its part to tackle climate change.”

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