Premier Ed Stelmach announces his government's new climate change plan Thursday in Edmonton.

Critics in and outside the Alberta legislature were quick to criticize the government's new climate-change plan, unveiled Thursday, as too slow and too expensive.

Under the plan, a significant reduction in overall CO2 emissions won't be made until 2020, and emissions could rise before then.

Premier Ed Stelmach announced the target as part of a new environmental strategy that is expected to carry the government into an election, which could be called within weeks.

The Liberal environment critic, David Swann, said 12 years is too long to wait for any significant reductions.

"If we continue to delay on addressing climate change, our economy and quality of life will suffer," he said.

The New Democrats accused the government of "backing the wrong horse" because much of the planned 200-megatonne reduction would come through carbon capture, a technology that takes CO2 from power plants and industrial facilities and injects it deep underground. The NDP says the technology is risky and will cost billions.

"Carbon capture is not just expensive but potentially dangerous as well. A pipeline rupture near a populated area could be disastrous," Mason said.

The long-term goal of the climate-change plan announced Thursday morning is to reduce emissions to 14 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2050, an effective cut of 50 per cent if emissions continue to increase at their current rate, Stelmach said.

The provincial government has already brought in legislation that requires Alberta industries and oilsands plants to reduce emissions on a per-barrel basis, but the rules would still allow overall emissions to increase as new projects come on line.

The long timeline is required to ensure the province's economy isn't hurt by imposing stricter limits with tighter deadlines, Stelmach said.

Pembina Institute criticizes long timeline

"Like others around the globe, we're working to find the right balance between development and conservation. Our climate-change plan ensures environmental protection while allowing for continued economic growth. It is practical and achievable. It encourages innovation, and sets realistic goals for industry."

Dan Woynillowicz, a senior policy analyst with the Pembina Institute, said the government is on the right track, but is taking too long to implement the reductions.

"There isn't the conviction in this government to move on this quickly. Instead they are just delaying action again."

In addition to investing in carbon capture, the government is promising to bring in new conservation and energy efficiency initiatives, and develop more green sources of energy, such as biofuels, wind and solar power.

The premier also announced a government-industry council to study the technologies needed to meet the emission targets and figure out how to cover the estimated cost of $500 million.