CALGARY, Alta. May 18, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Ontario’s aggressive plans to get off carbon carry a message for Albertans: we too must take decisive steps to lower our dependency on fossil fuel industries or risk businesses and jobs going elsewhere.
Leaked documents show the Ontario government plans a host of measures ranging from ending the use of natural gas to heat homes to converting provincial vehicles to electric power.
The grim truth is Alberta has a big task ahead of it. There is a vast difference between Ontario’s and Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions. With 38.5 per cent of Canada’s population, Ontario is responsible for 23 per cent of Canadian emissions. With just 11.7 per cent of the population, Alberta is responsible for a whopping 37 per cent of national emissions.
Certainly, many of our emissions result from producing resources that are consumed elsewhere. But that will not matter if renewable energy investment flows to Ontario and elsewhere and Alberta is left in the impoverished and environmentally damaged dust, producing products no one wants or needs.
The future belongs to renewable energy. That means the Alberta government should stop wasting time and political capital cheerleading for pipelines that will likely never to be built and quickly get with the renewable energy program.
For a host of reasons – climate change, and soil, water and air pollution – the oilsands operations should be scaled back in size and rate of production. And if that were to happen, no new pipelines would be needed.
To say the oilsands should scale back does not mean the industry should face immediate demise. It should not be all or nothing for oil and gas in Alberta, simply slower and less. Some oil and gas production will be needed for a long time, but in ever-smaller volumes.
Expansion of oilsands production is both wrong and self-defeating. As economist Jeff Rubin puts it, if the oilsands continue to expand, the Canadian economy will become “obsolete and non-competitive.”
The evidence of climate change is relentless. On the same day we learned of the bold Ontario plan, The Guardian newspaper told us that last month was the hottest April on record and “the seventh month in a row to have broken global temperature records.”
It’s a painful irony that Alberta has been hit by extreme weather events – floods, drought and fires – harder than any other province in recent years. The forest fire in Fort McMurray region continues to rage, circling back on the city again. And yet the cheerleading for oilsands expansion and pipelines to facilitate that expansion continues apace.
The truth is Alberta is being held back by its so-called “advantage” of plentiful oil and gas. Now investors are looking to bet their money on the future’s winners – and that’s not those industries producing copious greenhouse gases.
Alberta has to make real change and the NDP government’s lame Climate Leadership Plan is not the answer. The simple truth is the plan will not reduce Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions. And no amount of breast-beating over our oil and gas history will distract from the fact we are climate change laggards.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Alberta has as much or more renewable energy potential as any jurisdiction in Canada. We have wind, solar and geothermal galore.
But the dead weight of oil and gas drags us down. The NDP government has the power to get out from under that weight, but they have been intimidated by the oil and gas industry.
As Ontario and other regions of Canada prepare to flourish in the new renewable energy era, Alberta’s political leaders continue to declare themselves fans of a dying industry. That means promising initiatives on renewable resources don’t have the legislative framework needed to help them take off.
It’s time for real, aggressive climate leadership in Alberta, not sloganeering.
Janet Keeping is leader of the Green Party of Alberta.
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