Alberta NDP will double carbon levy by 2017

Alberta is asking industry to cut emissions and pay more for pumping greenhouse gases into the air.

By 2017, the Alberta government will require large emitters to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 per cent

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips. (Terry Reith/CBC)

Alberta is asking industry to cut emissions and pay more for pumping greenhouse gases into the air.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said on Thursday that by 2017, large emitters will have to reducethe intensity of greenhouse gases by 20 percent and carbon levies will double from $15 a tonne to $30 a tonne.

"We are serious about making progress," said Phillips.

The NDP also announced it will renew and update the province's current climate change plan and has hired Andrew Leach, associate professor and academic director of energy programs at the University of Alberta School of Business, to chair the advisory panel whose remaining members will be selected over the next few weeks.

Leach called it a "wonderful opportunity" and promised the review will go beyond emissions of oilsands and large emitters.

"The conversation must take place with Albertans in a broad sense," said Leach who will be part of consultations with Albertans over the next three months.

Phillips was quick to criticize previous Tory governments for a lack of leadership on climate change. 

"We were not taken seriously on the national or international stage and with this that is going to change," said Phillips.

The deadline looming over Alberta's plan is the COP21 United Nations conference on climate change in Paris at the end of the year, where Phillips is determined to present a cleaner, greener Alberta.

Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute, said Alberta needs to bring a comprehensive plan to Paris.

An effective strategy would include a plan for an accelerated end to coal-fired electricity generation, a strategy for replacing a good part of that lost generation capacity with renewable options, and an effective carbon price that helps drive down emissions, he said. 

"If we're going to go to Paris and if the premier is going to be there and hold her head high, we've got to have a good, robust, comprehensive approach to climate change and do our fair share."

Leach said his job is to come up with a range of options after consulting with the public, industry, environmental groups and First Nations. He said he hasn't been asked to recommend a specific action but to gather information to present to the government. 

He said he will be drawing on some of the work that has already been done. 

"We've got a running start. We're going to need it," he said. "We can't start with original research from day one and expect to have firm conclusions."

Phillips said the government has already been talking to industry and climate change experts and intends to have a plan together by December 2015.