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Alberta government, Opposition say the province should be consulted on emissions caps

Both Kenney and Notley say province has to be at the table when limits are discussed
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves the stage after he delivered a short speech at the 26th meeting of the Council of Parties to the UN climate convention, known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Alberta politicians are warning the federal Liberal government that caps on greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas will have to be set in consultation with the province.

Both Premier Jason Kenney and New Democrat Opposition Leader Rachel Notley say Alberta has to be at the table when the emissions caps announced Monday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are discussed.

“I don’t know why they would make an announcement like this without consulting with the province that actually owns the overwhelming majority of Canada’s oil and gas reserve,” said Kenney.

Notley pointed out oil and gas isn’t the only part of the economy that emits carbon dioxide.

“If the federal government is going to be talking about emissions caps for the oil and gas industry, they need to be talking about emissions caps for all sectors,” she said. “The government of Alberta needs to be at the table advocating for the best deal for Alberta.”

On Monday, Trudeau told the global climate conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, that Canada would impose a hard cap on emissions from the sector — the source of about a quarter of all Canada’s greenhouse gases.

Trudeau said the government is now moving on its election promise to cap those emissions. The pledge would see emissions limited to around current levels and ratcheted down every five years until they are carbon neutral by 2050.

“We’ll cap oil and gas sector emissions today and ensure they decrease tomorrow at a pace and scale needed to reach net zero by 2050,” Trudeau said.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson on Monday formally asked the government’s net-zero advisory board to help them accomplish this goal.

Kenney said his government isn’t necessarily opposed to a cap. A 100-megatonne emissions cap already exists for the oilsands, although that limit allows for expansion and has never been reached.

“We need to know what the cap is. We are willing to discuss with them the proposed 100-megatonne cap.”

Kenney said a better move from Ottawa would be a $32-billion transfer of tax dollars to help industry pay for carbon capture, utilization and storage — facilities that would collect carbon and pump it underground for long-term storage. Such facilities already exist in Alberta.

Tim McMillan of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said in a statement that such policies can help Canadian oil and gas reduce global carbon emissions.

“The world will need increased access to lower emission natural gas and oil,” he said. “Canada, under the right policy environment, can position ourselves as a preferred global supplier.”

Recent studies have suggested that Canada is already the largest subsidizer of oil and gas in the G20. The federal Liberals and federal agencies have promised to reduce those subsidies.

Chris Severson-Baker of the Pembina Institute, a clean energy think tank, said carbon capture is unlikely to play as big a role in reducing emissions as Kenney would like.

“There is a role for a certain degree of public support for carbon capture,” he said. “I think what Jason Kenney and the companies are talking about is that plus a whole lot more money.”

Severson-Baker said other federal regulations will apply across Canada’s economy. But an oil and gas cap is justified because that’s the sector where emissions are rising.

“This is the sector that (Trudeau) needs to focus on.”

—Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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