Calgary

Alberta Environment Minister defends carbon tax as a made-in-Alberta solution

Alberta's carbon tax may not be popular but Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says it's a necessary step for the province to do its part to combat climate change — in its own way.

Shannon Phillips says province-specific policy better than alternative of federally imposed one

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips speaks during a call-in portion of the Alberta@Noon radio program on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (CBC)

Alberta's carbon tax may not be popular but Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says it's a necessary step for the province to do its part to combat climate change — in its own way.

"We don't want a plan imposed on us by Ottawa. We really don't. And if we were to drag our heels, that's exactly what would happen," Phillips said on Alberta@Noon Monday.

"Federal carbon pricing is coming," she added. "What we've been able to do is make sure that we've got a system that works for Alberta and Albertans."

For nearly an hour, Phillips answered questions from listeners and defended her government's carbon-tax — set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2017 — from critics.

She noted Alberta's policy will include output-based allocations for large emitters — subsidies, in effect — to help maintain the competitiveness of the province's oilsands and other carbon-intensive industries in a global marketplace.

Marked farm fuel, commonly known as purple gas, is also exempt from the tax, she added.

Low- and middle-income Albertans will also receive rebates to help offset the cost of the carbon tax on their household budgets, Phillips said, and while wealthier Albertans will not, she said that's by design.

"For higher-income households we find that reductions can be achieved through investments in efficiency and just simply through very small and simple choices throughout the course of the year, and so that's why we chose to do that," she said.

Several listeners asked why Albertans should take the lead on curbing carbon emissions when, despite being one of the highest per-capita emitters of greenhouse gases, they make up just a small fraction of total global emissions in absolute terms.

Phillips said she doesn't buy that argument.

"Albertans are leaders. We're not policy takers; we're policy makers," she said.

"Why shouldn't we be at the world's forefront of solving this problem?"

now