Alberta Climate Change Plans Won't Change With Trump: Environment Minister

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EDMONTON – The election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president shouldn't affect Alberta's efforts to combat climate change, the province's environment minister said Monday.

Trump is widely expected to pull back on efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and move away from measures such as reducing coal-generated power and putting a price on carbon.

In a phone call from United Nations climate meetings in Marrakech, Morocco, Shannon Phillips said that doesn't necessarily mean Alberta will have to follow suit.

"We did not write our (climate plan) around an ambitious American climate agenda. We wrote it around business as usual, controlling for competitiveness.''

Alberta's New Democrats have promised to impose a $20-per-tonne carbon levy next year and increase it to $30 a tonne in 2018.

They have also said they'll put a 100-megatonne limit on carbon emissions from the oilsands, as well as phase out coal-generated power.

shannon phillips
"We did not write our (climate plan) around an ambitious American climate agenda. We wrote it around business as usual, controlling for competitiveness," said Alberta environment minister Shannon Phillips. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Phillips said governments all over the world are legislating similar moves.

"We now have China moving into a cap-and-trade system next year. Carbon pricing remains something that much of the world is doing.''

Phillips also pointed out many U.S. states are moving forward on their own with carbon emissions reduction legislation.

"Mr. Trump has said a lot of things and there's really a lot of hypotheticals right now. There's a lot of unknowns."

The province's Opposition Wildrose party has called for the government to suspend its climate-change plans. The party says the plans will put Alberta jobs at risk. Industry associations have raised similar concerns.

Phillips said moving ahead to limit greenhouse gases is the way to bring new jobs and investment to Alberta that don't depend on the vagaries of world commodity markets.

Phasing in renewable power will create $10 billion in investment, she said. Pricing carbon will also encourage businesses to invest to reduce their emissions.

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"Other jurisdictions have seen this – you see a tremendous amount of innovation and entrepreneurial activity and foreign investment coming in around retrofits and new technology. And that creates good-paying construction jobs around the economy.''

The UN meeting in Marrakech is the first international meeting held since the Paris accord, in which rich and poor countries alike promised to take action to curb the rise in global temperatures. It requires governments to present national plans to reduce emissions, limiting the increase in global temperature to well below 2 C.

Although Trump couldn't simply pull the U.S. out of the agreement, he could ignore the Obama administration's Paris pledge to reduce U.S. emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Everyone should take a deep breath, said Phillips.

"Mr. Trump has said a lot of things and there's really a lot of hypotheticals right now. There's a lot of unknowns.''