The Alberta government's decision to strengthen its carbon regulation for large industrial emitters, known as the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation, is a promising step toward achieving a credible climate action plan for the province. The plan to raise Alberta's existing carbon levy on a portion of industrial emissions from $15 per tonne to $20 per tonne in 2016 and $30 in 2017 shows the province is prepared to improve the local environment and protect the global climate. This announcement marks a start to what must be a more comprehensive climate action strategy for the province that should include enacting an economy-wide price on carbon pollution, phasing out coal-fired power, prioritizing renewable energy, building energy-efficient homes and businesses and investing in public transit.
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The David Suzuki Foundation is encouraged to hear that provincial decision-makers will review and consider policies in place elsewhere in Canada for curbing carbon emissions, including British Columbia's broad-based carbon tax and Quebec and Ontario's cap-and-trade agreement.
"Putting a price on carbon pollution is one of the most powerful government incentives to prioritize clean energy and encourage companies and communities to pollute less," said Ian Bruce, science and policy manager for the David Suzuki Foundation. "We've seen evidence from within Canada and around the world that these incentives work when applied broadly to regional economies. We hope the government of Alberta will take that path."
Leading global organizations — including the World Bank, World Economic Forum, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — agree that a price on carbon pollution though a carbon tax or regulatory cap-and-trade system is a critical part of an effective plan to address climate change.
"It's encouraging to see that Canada's highest-emitting province is willing to strengthen its actions to curb carbon pollution," said Jay Ritchlin, David Suzuki Foundation director general for Western Canada. "With climate change already affecting communities around the world, long-term strategies for regions with high emissions are needed immediately. I'm interested to see the next steps for Alberta."
Whether Alberta adopts a broadly applied carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, its contribution to national efforts will be critical if Canada is to have an effective climate change action plan.