They say bad news comes in threes.
- Alberta's Climate Change Central closes its doors after trying its best to survive after the provincial government pulled their funding two years ago.
- The Alberta government continues to drag its heels and leaves Alberta as the only province in Canada without a renewable energy strategy.
- And perhaps most troubling is Jim Prentice's refusal to increase Alberta's carbon price because it would hurt industry.
The fact is strong environmental policy is a pro industry policy.
Whether we like it or not, the world is using Alberta's development of our oilsands as a proxy in the fight against climate change, in large part because our transparent regulatory reporting system requires Alberta producers to report the impacts of their operations.
When compared to large emitters like China, Russia or the US, carbon emissions from Alberta's oilsands contribute a tiny fraction to the global carbon load, yet we are struggling to get access to market for our energy resources in large part because of Alberta's inaction on climate change.
It may not be fair, but it presents Alberta with a huge opportunity to become a world leader in reducing the impact of energy production.
If only we had a government willing to take action.
Alberta has a choice to make. We can either fight a public relations war, one we are losing badly, or we can get ahead of the problem and become world leaders in reducing carbon, become champions of renewable and alternative energy, reduce the use of fresh water in energy production and eliminate tailings, all while addressing the social impacts of oilsands development.
The cornerstone of this is a higher price on carbon. Alberta's current carbon price works out to just ten cents a barrel, which doesn't provide enough of an economic incentive to implement carbon reduction measures. Most companies see this as a cost of doing business and simply pay the carbon tax without meaningfully reducing carbon emissions.
A higher carbon price paired with a requirement to purchase offsets in Alberta (currently emitters can buy carbon offsets from the US and elsewhere), achieves two things. First, it adjusts the economics of oilsands (and other large emitters) so reducing carbon emissions becomes a rational economic choice, and second, creates demand for renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal right here in Alberta.
If bad things come in threes perhaps good things can as well. If Alberta takes real, meaningful action on environmental policy we can overcome the negative perception of our oilsands, develop world-class technologies and kick-start Alberta's renewable energy industry. All of this leads to sustainable economic prosperity and good jobs for generations to come, which is good for industry, good for Albertans and good for the world.
Strong environment policy is pro industry policy. It also happens to be the right thing to do.