Calgary

Albertans surprised by federal government's move to increase greenhouse gas emission targets

A new target for lowering greenhouse gas emissions in Canada has caught some Albertans off guard.

'Is the benefit of that aggressive pathway worth the cost of going on it?' asks economist

Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon said they were not consulted, nor made aware of the details of the new target. (The Canadian Press)

A new target for lowering greenhouse gas emissions in Canada has caught some Albertans off guard.

The Prime Minister announced Thursday that Canada will now reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

University of Calgary economist Jennifer Winter said she's surprised the federal government keeps moving its own goalposts so often.

"I find that particularly puzzling," she said. 

'Aggressive pathway'

In December, the federal government revealed a plan to reach its goal of a 30 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

Then during Monday's federal budget that goal increased to 36 per cent. Now, it's somewhere between 40 and 45 per cent.

"Anything is possible if governments are willing to throw enough money at it, it's more of a question of is the benefit of that aggressive pathway worth the cost of going on it?" said Winter. 

She said Canada would need to adopt aggressive policies to reach this latest target which would make Canada less competitive globally.

"If we are engaging in more aggressive policies, that means we are, by default, less competitive than other jurisdictions. It's sort of like, Canada is going to have a $50 a ton carbon tax next year. The U.S, doesn't have anything like that," said Winter. 

Rather than focusing on targets, Winter said countries should try to match policies in order to ensure a level playing field.

Province not forewarned 

In a statement, Alberta's environment minister said the province shared its climate priorities with Ottawa prior to today's climate summit. Environment minister Jason Nixon said they were not consulted, nor made aware of the details of the new target.

He said targets don't mean much without a realistic plan to achieve them, and in the meantime, he said Alberta will continue to reduce emissions and create jobs.

For decades, Alberta has led on climate initiatives and emissions management — including being the first North American jurisdiction to put a price on carbon for large emitters.

"We encourage the federal government to take similar tangible action," he said. 

"The funding programs announced and proposed by Canada to date are an order of magnitude too small to support the clean hydrogen, CCUS (Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage), and other technology investments needed to align with Canada's projections."

The head of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors said its hard to know what to expect until he hears more details.

"The industry has both experience as well as a track record in working in partnership with government on what I would consider big hairy audacious goals and we look forward in working in collaboration," said CEO Mark Scholz.

With files from Colleen Underwood

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