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With unprecedented wildfires this year in Alberta forcing climate change to the front of public debate, two new polls find a majority of Albertans want a cap on oil and gas sector emissions.
The polls conducted by Leger and Research Co., and commissioned by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), found six in 10 Albertans support capping oil and gas sector emissions. With the planet continuing to overheat for the foreseeable future and pressure to phase out the oil and gas industry ramping up globally, young Albertans appear most concerned with fossil fuel emissions, according to the polls.
The Leger poll found 69 per cent of Albertans aged 18 to 34 support a countrywide cap on oil and gas emissions, while another poll from Research Co. found 76 per cent in that age range support the proposed cap.
The polling also found roughly 70 per cent of respondents are concerned about the wildfires impacting their health. As of Sept. 14, there are more than 80 wildfires burning in Alberta, and over 1,000 wildfires have been recorded this year in the province.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Dr. Joe Vipond, a Calgary-based emergency doctor and past-president of CAPE, in a statement. “Albertans want more, not less, climate action and want oil companies regulated at the national level.”
The dual polls come as Alberta and the federal government embark on a year-long discussion on energy policies that experts believe will be a forum for further battle between the two sides. As previously reported by Canada’s National Observer, federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault says the working group between the two governments won’t derail Ottawa’s plan to pursue the emissions cap.
However, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is adamant the policy will not come to fruition.
“Under no scenario will the Government of Alberta permit the implementation of the proposed federal electricity regulations or contemplated oil and gas emissions cap,” she said in a statement late last month. “Ottawa has no constitutional authority to regulate in these areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction.”
On Thursday, Smith confirmed the working group held its first meeting earlier in the week and the Alberta delegation threatened to upend the talks if the feds were to introduce final electricity regulations, a cap on oil and gas emissions, or new policies aimed at curbing methane pollution. Moving on any of those policies during “negotiations would be unacceptable to Alberta and risk the viability of the working group’s continued discussions,” she said in a statement.
With unprecedented wildfires this year in Alberta forcing climate change to the front of public debate, two new polls find a majority of Albertans want a cap on oil and gas sector emissions. #abpoli #EmissionsCap
Smith’s reputation for battling the feds appears to be a winning formula for the Alberta premier. Despite Thursday’s polls showing Albertans are supportive of a federal policy to cap oil and gas emissions, a separate poll from Angus Reid published earlier in the week found Smith’s popularity grew two per cent since June to a 47 per cent approval rating –– making her the fifth most popular premier in the country.
“Alberta vs. Ottawa is an old tune but remains perhaps a favourite among many Albertans,” the polling agency said. “Half (47 per cent) say they approve of Smith’s performance as premier, half (47 per cent) don’t.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on an oil and gas emissions cap during the last election, and he reaffirmed the goal at a United Nations climate summit in 2021. Ottawa previously signalled draft regulations would be ready by spring 2023 with final regulations ready by the end of the year.
The proposed cap comes as Canadian fossil fuel production continues to grow, pushing the planet’s temperature to dangerous new levels. The oil and gas sector is the country’s largest and growing source of emissions, and major new fossil fuel projects like LNG Canada and Bay du Nord are actively being planned and massive pipelines like Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink are being built to facilitate the growing production.
A recent study from Oil Change International found Canada is on track to be the second-largest fossil fuel expander, behind the United States, by 2050. On its own, Canada’s planned fossil fuel expansion represents 10 per cent of the world’s expansion plans, creating the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of 117 coal plants run for decades.