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One thing about Alberta: it never does anything in half-measures.

Tar sands? We build ‘em big.

Climate change? Just watch us go.

The province released a climate change plan on Sunday evening that is as sweeping as a view from the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains out across the prairies— and, optically, every bit as pretty.

Suddenly the dirty crude-producing province is positioning itself as a leader in renewable energy and carbon pricing.

The province announced that it intends to phase out coal emissions by 2030, impose a limit of 100 megatonnes of emissions annually from the tar sands, and introduce an ambitious carbon pricing plan.

The province plans to replace two-thirds of coal-generated electricity with renewables by 2030, primarily wind power, while continuing to rely on natural gas generation.

Alberta will phase in carbon pricing, starting at $20 a tonne “economy-wide” in January 2017 and reaching its stated target of $30 a tonne one year later.

One hundred per cent of the proceeds from the carbon pricing will be reinvested in the province, and a portion of the revenues will go directly to measures to reduce pollution, including clear energy research and toward green infrastructure such as public transit.

The province also intends to introduce a methane reduction strategy to reduce emissions by 45 per cent from 2014 levels by 2025.

"This is the day we stop denying it is an issue."

Deservedly, the plan came in for a lot of praise from several environmental advocacy groups.

The director of ForestEthics, Karen Mahon, praised the plan, calling it bold, and saying it holds oil companies responsible for carbon pollution where tar sands are extracted. “That’s strong leadership and a very good thing for the climate.”

Mahon said on the eve of the Paris climate talks, Canada is charting a new direction. “There is now nothing standing in the way of Prime Minister Trudeau legislating an ambitious national climate leadership plan."

Notley certainly had the announcement optics down pat. She appeared at the press conference flanked by oil company executives, representatives from the First Nations, environmental activists and staff from a prominent think tank.

She just needed an "unmuzzled" scientist added to the group and she pretty well would have covered all the bases.

Turning to the crowd assembled at the Telus World of Science—a location whose name itself has symbolic value, given the departure from recent Conservative attitudes toward science and climate—she told them: “This is the day we stop denying there is an issue.”

A kick in the teeth from the U.S. government

But there is an issue and Notley couldn’t help herself from taking a swipe at the elephant in the room.

The premier brought up United States President Barack Obama's dismissal of the Keystone XL Pipeline project, which would have shipped tar sands crude from Alberta down to the U.S.

Notley said when it came to the issue of emissions reductions and climate change, they got a “major wake-up call on this a few weeks ago in the form of a kick in the teeth from the Government of the United States.

"Unfairly in my view, the President of the United States claimed that our production is some of the dirtiest oil in the world. That is the reputation that mistaken government policies of the past have earned for us.”

She went on to call Alberta a land-locked energy producer with a single market and said that single market that “just took a very hard run at us, so we need to do better.”

Albertans will shoulder the economic pain alongside industry

Mike Hudema, a Greenpeace Canada Climate and Energy campaigner said that while the policies introduced Sunday form important first steps, more needs to be done for Alberta to do its part in keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius.

Hudema called the cap on tar sands emissions significant, but said the limits are still below what science demands. “So the cap must be viewed as a ceiling, not a floor. Alberta, like other jurisdictions, must continue to do more, not less.”

Greenpeace also expressed concern that the government didn’t outline any short-or-long-term emission reduction targets.

It’s also clear that while Alberta has made a big splash with its announcement, the province now has lot of work ahead. Over the next few months the province will have to map out more clearly how it’s going to accomplish its ambitious goals and it remains to be seen whether its balancing act while continue to satisfy energy producers, labour, environmentalists and the public.

For instance, ordinary Albertans will shoulder the pain alongside industry. CBC reports that if the policy is approved, the price of gas at the pump will jump 4.7 cents per litre and home heating costs will steeply rise.

It’s also equally clear that Notley is still bitter about the death knell Obama gave to Keystone XL.

For the moment, though, Notley can enjoy the feeling that Alberta remains as big and bold as ever - this time swaggering onto the national stage as a reducer of emissions rather than as their cause.

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