In April, Alberta, Canada, will elect a new provincial government. Many may be unaware that the current NDP government of Premier Rachel Notley has adopted a globally significant climate plan. Here is what's in it, what it has done, and what is at stake next month.

First, where did Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan plan come from? (George Soros, perhaps? Foreign-funded radicals?) No. It came from Albertans. A panel led by Andrew Leach spoke with 1,000 residents in-person and heard from more than 25,000 online.

The panel also engaged with more than 350 stakeholders and met with Aboriginal peoples in three cities, and received hundreds of detailed submissions from non-government organizations, industry groups and others.

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The plan, released in November 2015, focuses on four priorities: Eliminate coal power by 2030; Price climate pollution with a meaningful and rising carbon price; Cap oilsands emissions at 100 megatonnes (MT) per year, and; Slash dangerous methane emissions 45 per cent by 2025.

A few months later, the province also committed to ensure that renewables would make up at least 30 per cent of the grid by 2030, then legislated that target. But wait, renewables are "uneconomic," right? Wrong.

Alberta wind power is cheaper than new natural gas

Alberta’s first round of competitive, private-sector clean power auctions, in December 2017, revealed wind to be the cheapest source of new electricity in Canada. When complete, the new projects will power a quarter million Alberta homes.

Wherever you are, if you care about the climate, you should watch next month's Alberta election, writes @jamesglave. And if you live in Alberta, please keep these considerations in mind when you head to the polls.

Again, the average power purchase contract price per megawatt-hour of wind pencilled out lower than the price of recent new Canadian natural-gas fossil fuel plants. Wind is a relative bargain, and unlike gas plants, wind does not contribute greenhouse gas pollution.

On more recent wind energy contracts, companies will invest approximately $1.2 billion in the province for five projects. Each will have 25 per cent Indigenous ownership. Together, they will have the capacity to generate enough carbon-free electricity to power approximately 300,000 houses per year.

Alberta has also increased solar power production fivefold under the climate plan, and contracted three new solar farms dedicated to cleanly powering half of all government’s operations (wind will power the other half). Albertans have energized about 3,100 solar installations to date.

Alberta policy is cleaning its power grid

Is it helping? Well, in 2014, when I co-authored (with Ben Thibault) the Pembina/Clean Energy Canada report “Power to Change” report, Alberta had the most polluting grid in Canada. Some 18 coal power units produced more than 60 per cent of the province’s electricity.

But as of 2018, coal delivered less than half of Alberta’s electricity. In two years, power sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions plunged seven megatonnes, or 16 per cent. This was mostly natural gas replacing coal, but the direction is clear.

The province also launched Energy Efficiency Alberta, a public energy efficiency agency. Its programs have so far saved individual Albertans a collective $510 million, and slashed energy use by the equivalent of an amount that would power 1.2 million homes for one year.

What about coal workers? The carbon price is also funding a just transition program that provides financial, employment, and retraining support for coal workers and coal-reliant communities impacted by the province's energy transition.

Transit? Carbon price revenue has funded expansions of 17 municipal transit systems, including 15 new light rail vehicles in Calgary, and 28 new electric buses in Edmonton. And the largest off-grid solar project in an Indigenous community in Canada.

According to the most recent Climate Leadership Plan progress report, in 2017-18 the province re-invested $1.2 billion of carbon pricing revenue back into Alberta’s economy. Of this, the province sent about 40 per cent ($487 million) straight back to Albertans via rebates or tax cuts.

The government invested 60 per cent (about $700 million) in more than 50 climate leadership programs and policies. These supported more than 5,000 jobs. By 2021, the province projects these investments will yield more than 52MT of cumulative GHG reductions.

If continued until 2030, Alberta’s latest modelling suggests the Climate Leadership Plan will head off the release of some 50 megatonnes of GHG pollution. That would have the same climate impact as removing nearly half the passenger cars driving on Canada’s roads today.

Kenney and the environment

Still with me? Good. The opposition United Conservative Party, led by Jason Kenney, hopes to sweep the polls next month. Kenney has promised voters he will scrap both the carbon price and Energy Efficiency Alberta.

In February, Kenney said, if elected, his government would “no longer provide subsidies to uneconomic wind and solar power generation...” Despite the evidence to the contrary proven out in his own province, he called these projects “uneconomic.”

Now, is the province’s climate plan perfect? No. Its biggest flaw, by far, is its treatment of the province’s oilsands, a globally significant petroleum resource. Last year, Barry Saxifrage analyzed the plan's oilsands cap in a story in the National Observer.

He concluded the cap still allows industry emissions to soar to 115 Mt. This would consume nearly a quarter of Canada's target under the Paris Agreement. (My take: Though stricter oilsands GHG limits are scientifically necessary, they appear to be politically impossible.)

The Climate Leadership Plan also promised to slash methane emissions - invisible leaks from pipes and natural gas wells, and routine industry venting. Unfortunately, on that front the government has done not nearly enough. It’s a huge missed opportunity.

Albertans understand the risks of climate change. They have felt impacts first hand, in the catastrophic 2013 flooding of downtown Calgary. Three years later, the Horse River fire devastated the oil sands community of Fort McMurray, forcing 80,000 to flee.

Wherever you are, if you care about the climate, you should watch this election. And if you live in Alberta, please keep these considerations in mind when you head to the polls on April 16. Thank you!

Comments

On new export pipelines, oilsands expansion, boosting AB's emissions, and ignoring IPCC warnings, Notley and Kenney are on the same page.
But Notley is far more likely to get pipelines built. Oilsands expansion is predicated on new export pipelines. Oilsands expansion cannot be reconciled with Canada's inadequate targets.

The UN, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the federal Environment Commissioner all issued warnings in 2017 that Canada is NOT on track to meet its targets. The main obstacle? Rising oilsands emissions.
OECD: "Without a drastic decrease in the emissions intensity of the oilsands industry, the projected increase in oil production may seriously risk the achievement of Canada's climate mitigation targets."

Prof. Mark Jaccard, SFU: "National studies by independent researchers (including my university-based group) consistently show that Mr. Trudeau’s 2015 Paris promise of a 30% reduction by 2030 is unachievable with oilsands expansion."

Pembina Institute: "Oilsands expansion is a significant barrier to Canada meeting its 2020 climate commitment.
"Rising greenhouse gas pollution from the oilsands is at odds with Canada’s international climate change commitments and the global need to make deep reductions to emissions."
"Clearing the air on oilsands emissions" (Pembina Institute, Nov 2012)
https://www.pembina.org/reports/clearing-the-air-climate-oilsands.pdf

Premier Notley and PM Trudeau are betting that the world will fail to take real action on climate change. That is the only scenario in which oilsands expansion makes sense.
"The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention" (The Narwhal, Sep 26, 2016)
• thenarwhal.ca/new-climate-denialism-time-intervention

AB's climate plan is a plan to fail.
AB's climate plan is incompatible with Canada's (inadequate) emissions targets.
AB's oilsands expansion agenda, enabled by new pipelines, will prevent Canada from meeting its targets for decades. No mainstream climate scientist supports AB's agenda. AB's "climate plan" flouts IPCC warnings.
Whether you vote for Notley or Kenney, you are voting for Big Oil's climate agenda: the "Big Stall".

One scientific study after another shows that AB oil & gas industry emissions are grossly under-reported.
Under AB's climate plan, AB's under-reported emissions will likely go UP, not down.
Rising oilsands emissions offset reductions elsewhere and blow Canada's targets out of the water for decades.
AB's climate plan sets no targets or timelines.
Building fossil-fuel infrastructure locks us into a fossil-fuel future for decades.

In Nov 2015, Big Oil CEOs stood with Notley on stage in support of Big Oil's "climate" plan.
A plan that allowed oilsands expansion enabled by new export pipelines in return for a small carbon tax that would not impair their profits and a fraudulent oilsands cap that would not outlive the Notley govt.

A deal cooked up by Big Oil and corporate Canada years before Notley and Trudeau came to power. You can read about the "plan to fail" here:

In his book, "The Big Stall: How Big Oil and Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change in Canada", Donald Gutstein details how neoliberal "progressive" politicians like Trudeau and Notley subverted the climate change agenda and enabled Big Oil's "predatory delay":
"The Rise and Fall of Trudeau’s ‘Grand Bargain’ on Climate" (The Tyee, 14 Nov 2018)
https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2018/11/14/Trudeau-Climate-Bargain/

"Justin Trudeau’s grand bargain with Big Oil exposed in Donald Gutstein's The Big Stall (The Georgia Straight, Nov 14th, 2018 )
https://www.straight.com/news/1164161/justin-trudeaus-grand-bargain-big-...

Naturally, Big Oil applauded its own climate plan!
Good luck finding any climate scientists who support it.

Why is it worse when the progressive party fails on climate?
Playing on her undeserved credibility on climate and otherwise progressive values, Notley is far more likely to get pipelines built. Kenney will be impotent and isolated.

Notley's brand of denialism lulls the public into a dangerous complacency and paralysis.
Notley has led many of her progressive followers to embrace a fossil-fuel future and deny reality. By pushing pipelines, the NDP sends a clear message that climate change is not a global emergency.

With her pipeline hysteria, Notley is leading progressives astray to support oilsands and pipelines, downplay the science, and ignore IPCC warnings. Something Jason Kenney cannot do. "Progressive" denialism is far more dangerous than the blatant right-wing variety.

Now we have zero oil industry critics in the AB Legislature. And there won't be any after 2019. Banished to opposition benches, the NDP will be able to say nothing about oilsands expansion, oil & gas pollution, and climate inaction — because they sided with Big Oil in office.
We no longer have a mainstream party that champions science.
We no longer have a progressive party in the NDP.
The AB NDP took away our last hope for real action on climate in AB.

Notley has done irreparable damage to the AB NDP's progressive brand.

Agreed on all counts.
Has Trudeau done likewise to the Federal Liberals progressive brand?

The tone has improved in comparison to Mr. Harper, but both the climate targets and the results seem to be the same.

So what would your plan be and who are you voting for?
The argument that what the NDP has done is not enough is a credible one, but lumping NDP policy in with the UCP..........is rather sloppy ideology. We have had 44 years of petrostate politics in Alberta...and shouting angrily that a new government has not fixed all of that in 4 years seems a tad adolescent to me. As someone who's been working on the ground for renewable energy, and supporting pipeline resisters for years, I have some idea how hard it is to achieve change in Alberta.

The current government has made a start. It is now up to all of us to acknowledge we can't go backwards....but the passion with which you argue for 'no difference' makes me suspect you'd be okay with the UCP regaining power for the arch denialists.
I think we have to be a bit more strategic, hard working, and persistent.......if we actually do want change in this province.....and an economy that works for everyone.

Poverty is also a climate change problem....as Mozambigue is demonstrating tragically right now. The war on the poor waged by right wing governments is part and parcel of their extractivist policies for resource development. Building a truly sustainable world is going to require we all connect more than 2-3 dots; its also going to require a willingness to make some sacrifices.

Just getting the average citizen on side for carbon pricing is a work in progress......and all of us who know what climate change means should be encouraging public acceptance of that tool.

Instead, you've spent a lot of ink ranting about what Notley hasn't done.....and being somewhat disingenuous about the progress her government has made in emissions reduction and renewable growth on the ground.

Mary wrote: "being somewhat disingenuous about the progress her government has made in emissions reduction and renewable growth on the ground."

Who's being disingenuous? AB's grossly under-reported emissions are more likely to go up, not down.
Rising oilsands emissions offset reductions elsewhere and blow Canada's targets out of the water for decades.
AB's climate plan sets no targets or timelines.
Building fossil-fuel infrastructure locks us into a fossil-fuel future for decades.

Notley signed on to Big Oil's fraudulent "climate" plan.
In Nov 2015, Big Oil CEOs stood with Notley on stage in support of what was essentially its own "climate" plan.
A plan that allowed oilsands expansion enabled by new export pipelines in return for a small carbon tax that would not impair their profits and a fraudulent oilsands cap that would not outlive the Notley govt.

A deal cooked up by Big Oil and corporate Canada years before Notley and Trudeau came to power. You can read about the "plan to fail" here:

In his book, "The Big Stall: How Big Oil and Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change in Canada", Donald Gutstein details how neoliberal "progressive" politicians like Trudeau and Notley subverted the climate change agenda and enabled Big Oil's "predatory delay":
"The Rise and Fall of Trudeau’s ‘Grand Bargain’ on Climate" (The Tyee, 14 Nov 2018)
https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2018/11/14/Trudeau-Climate-Bargain/

"Justin Trudeau’s grand bargain with Big Oil exposed in Donald Gutstein's The Big Stall (The Georgia Straight, Nov 14th, 2018 )
https://www.straight.com/news/1164161/justin-trudeaus-grand-bargain-big-...

Mary wrote: "Just getting the average citizen on side for carbon pricing is a work in progress......and all of us who know what climate change means should be encouraging public acceptance of that tool.

No one has done more to undermine the justification and benefits of carbon pricing than Premier Notley.
Notley's first mistake? Linking AB's carbon tax with new pipelines.
AB's tiny carbon tax is a fig leaf — a cynical quid pro quo in exchange for new pipelines. Hopelessly contradictory policy.
Delays in Trans Mtn construction threaten the legitimacy of the tax. No pipeline? No tax.

Notley further undermined NDP credibility on climate by hinging her support for a federal carbon tax in exchange for pipelines.
After the Federal Court ruling on TMX, Notley pulled her support for a national "floor price" on carbon.
"Climate leader" R. Notley: “Until the federal government gets its act together, Alberta is pulling out of the federal climate plan. And let’s be clear, without Alberta, that plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
Does she believe in carbon pricing or not?

Notley has granted the oil & gas industry tax holidays and exemptions. Not to mention billions of tax dollars in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel subsidies are a carbon tax in reverse. Notley's end run around her own carbon tax defeats the purpose.

A carbon tax set too low to change consumer (market) behavior is just a useless diversion — a fig leaf to make it seem as if govts are actually doing something.
As Andrew Coyne argues, carbon taxes set too low merely annoy and give credence to claims that it's simply a revenue grab.
Tiny carbon taxes, coal phase-out, fraudulent emissions caps, and "free" LED bulbs are smoke and mirrors, if AB prevents Canada from meeting its inadequate targets.

Mary wrote: "The current government has made a start."

Under current leadership, the AB NDP and the federal Liberals will NEVER take us where we need to go.
AB's drive for fossil fuel growth is IRREVOCABLE. There is no redemption. No going back. No path from oilsands expansion to lower emissions and Canada's climate targets. No tweaks of NDP policy can get us to where we need to go.
You don't build pipelines and new oilsands projects only to run them for a decade. Oilsands infrastructure, including pipelines, takes decades to recoup its costs.

On oil industry issues, Notley has followed in the footsteps of her Conservative predecessors. If anything, she has doubled down on fossil fuel subsidies, rhetoric, and propaganda.

Bad policy and worse politics. Notley has convinced Albertans that new export pipelines are their birthright. Notley's pipeline propaganda is a steady stream of misinformation and misrepresentation. Fuelling resentment, anger, and hysteria.
Pipelines have attained near-mythical status. The Holy Grail, without which Albertans must feel deprived and humiliated.
Notley calls it "the politics of love and hope and optimism." How many Albertans see it that way? How will future generations judge our failure on climate?

Whether you vote for Notley or Kenney, you are voting for Big Oil's climate agenda: the "Big Stall".
Scientifically untenable, morally unconscionable, and politically insupportable.
Notley most certainly had a choice. Her option was to be the best one-term premier AB will ever see. Base energy and climate policy on the best-available science.
Pandering to the right was never going to win Notley a second term. If Albertans want right-wing policies, why wouldn't they just vote for the real thing?

"Notley has taken the NDP’s old reputation for Prairie pragmatism and dunked it in oil.
"...Notley takes every opportunity she gets to profess her love for her province, its people and its fossil-fuel economy. So far—at least when it comes to voting intentions—the goodwill largely flows one way.
...Members of Alberta’s old NDP base describe a government whose approach ranges from cautious to timid. Outside the province, fellow travellers remark at how little Notley’s stance on the oil industry diverged from that of past governments, and how at odds it is with that of the New Democratic movement elsewhere. Charles Smith, a University of Saskatchewan political scientist who specializes in labour issues, recalled one staunchly pro-NDP colleague’s observation: 'Rachel Notley’s the best Progressive Conservative premier Alberta ever had.'"
"Rachel Notley fought like hell for Alberta, but the province isn’t about to thank her." (Macleans, Mar 11, 2019)
https://www.macleans.ca/politics/rachel-notley-fought-like-hell-for-albe...

Why is Notley unfit to be a 21st century leader?
"To Notley, the NDP tensions are part of a long-standing debate within the party that she casts as one between workers’ ability to put food on the table and 'longer-term, sort of academic-y concerns around environment.'"
Notley demonstrates an appalling lack of scientific literacy. Too late now, but why didn't Notley hire a science advisor? She desperately needs one.

Reality check: A NDP win in 2019 is not on the menu. Notley was always a one-term premier.

If progressives vote for a nominally progressive NDP that promises to lead them over the climate cliff, the NDP has no reason to change their policies. Supporters of NDP energy policy are enabling disaster, economic as well as environmental.
If you want change, you have to vote for it.

In 2019, AB progressives can either endorse Notley’s rewrite of progressive values or repudiate it. If we endorse it, we should not expect better in future.
Even if the 2019 election is a foregone conclusion, progressive Albertans can still send a strong message to the political class: Failure on climate change is not an option.
In 2023 or beyond, Albertans weary of the UCP yoke may rise up and vote for a truly progressive NDP that charts a new course based on the best available science under new leadership.

I'm not sure why we should accept abysmal failure from "progressive" leaders — just because the guys across the aisle would be even worse.
My father would be a better goaltender than my sister — but that doesn't mean the Maple Leafs should put him in net.
Progressives should not support any party or politician who promises to take us over the climate cliff.
Reject Notley's/Big Oil's agenda, send Notley packing — and demand true progressive, scientifically literate policies from an environmentally enlightened leadership.

No way will Notley lead the NDP into the 2023 election. The AB NDP will be seeking new leadership.
The immediate question for NDP supporters is whether to follow Notley over the climate cliff -- or repudiate Big Oil's agenda and return to traditional NDP domain and truly progressive values.

I won't vote for any party that plans to fail on climate.
My suggestion is to vote Green. Send the other parties a strong message. Write to your NDP candidate and leader and tell them why you're not voting NDP this time.
If we sit back and wait for climate action from industry-captured politicians banking on failure, we will wait forever. The only way to get a truly progressive leader is to refuse to support imposters.
We have no time to lose.

The funny thing is that things would have been very different if Alberta actually gave the CCF and NDP a chance long before 2015. The labour movement would have been stronger, the oil sands would have be cleaner, employment and pay would have been much better, and nobody would have thought of calling for a shut down of the oil sands. On top of that, Alberta might have been able to pay for its own pipeline if they were up to it.

Instead, we end up with what we have now, and while voting UCP is the dumbest "strategy", their election would guarantee a shut down of the sands.

The Alberta PCs seem to have lost their way after Lougheed.

All of these years since Alberta could have been building a rainy day fund similar to what Norway has done. Ironically that (or something like that - "the heritage fund") had been Mr. Lougheed's idea long before Norway ever thought of doing it. With that, and a sales tax, like every other province already has, Albertans would be now in a position to invest in transitioning their economy away from fossil fuels.

This strikes me as a pretty accurate summary of our situation in Alberta. For purists, those for whom no government ever achieves what they would have if they had the power, continuing to support Alberta's oilsands is big picture enough to allow them to continue criticizing. But for a government that did not expect to achieve power, what the NDP have accomplished in the last 4 years is nothing short of miraculous.

Jason Kenny can continue to spew lying rhetoric about uneconomic renewables...but we have installed enough wind and solar, on the ground, to prove him wrong. He is now pretending to believe in climate change, but arguing the UCP tent is big enough to accomodate deniers.......and perhaps Albertans will be attracted to that kind of 'free speech'.

But a lie is a lie is a lie...and science and scientific evidence is something else. The carbon tax is an essential tool in reducing emissions. We need to start incentivizing transition industries and stop subsidizing climate killing ones. I believe even the NDP know that Fort MacMurray will have to be phased out in the near future, and with another four years they can continue to build the infrastructure....and the jobs....that will allow us to replace it. We all have to do our part also. Solarizing is really affordable in Alberta now, and some of us have done it.

More Albertans will support the sustainable industries the NDP are encouraging, if we stop pretending we can bring back the oil booms of the past, and start facing reality.

Climate change is real...and it is going to take real change on the ground, to combat it. We can't turn off the fossil fuel taps overnight......but we do have to prepare for the new economy. Science tells us there is no alternative........to double down on old wealth creation schemes, as Jason wants to do....simply isn't possible.

A win for Regressive Conservatives will just assure a harder transition for ordinary Albertans. So thanks National Observer...for the fact checking.

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