The Alberta government is introducing a grant program for schools and community groups that want to implement climate change education programs.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says the government will divide $600,000 among organizations that want to provide scientifically sound climate information to the public.

"This is another way for the province to support organizations in communities to take on the issue of climate straight on and to be very clear about what their objectives are," Phillips said Monday.

She said the money is for groups ranging from community leagues to First Nations to environmental organizations. She singled out Earth Rangers, a Canadian charity that works in classrooms to encourage children to get involved with conservation projects.

The province has long been involved in environmental education and climate change needs to be part of that message, the minister said.

"Climate is that big umbrella under which all other issues move forward. We need a way to make sure we are tying all those issues together."

She acknowledged a classroom−based program emphasizing the importance of the issue may not be welcome in all Alberta homes.

"There was a time when kids went home with anti−smoking information and it was sometimes questioned by their parents," she said. "This is just another step in when we know better, we do better."

Phillips confirmed the Alberta government will screen and evaluate all proposals before granting any money. The deadline for applications is March 6. She added that further parts of the province’s climate−change initiative are coming within the next few weeks, including a program to encourage home solar panel installation.

She also said the introduction of the government’s new carbon tax, which began Jan. 1, has gone smoothly.

"The introduction of the small business tax cut paired with the rebates for low−income people have really ensured that people are seeing that this is not the massive economic shock that the opposition would have us believe."

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