All hands on deck to help Alberta’s new government act on climate change.

Wasting no time following Premier Notley’s commitment to craft a climate action plan, the Pembina Institute convened about one hundred thought-leaders from around the country in Calgary this week.  I was honoured to be invited to the roundtable to share insights we’ve gained reducing emissions in the City of Toronto.

Most impressive was the broad public and private sector support for climate action, although no real consensus. The challenges that lie ahead make your head spin – Alberta has the highest overall emissions and highest growth in emissions of all of the provinces – but this is also the massive opportunity.

Here are some of the key issues which stood out for me from the discussion:

Weak Targets

Alberta’s current greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets are too low and not aligned with the reductions required to avoid dangerous climate change, nor is the province on a trajectory to meet them. An aggressive cap on emissions is necessary for Alberta to carry its weight in delivering Canada’s 2030 commitment to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Accelerating a Coal Phase-out

Most of Alberta’s electricity is coal-fired, with four private companies contributing 15 percent of the provinces emissions.  Achieving significant emission reductions is getting easier and cheaper with wind, solar and conservation (see Ontario example).

Pricing carbon

Multi-stakeholder representatives including the oil and gas sector discussed pricing carbon pollution, but Alberta needs to move quickly, building on its existing intensity-based fee, which is currently very narrowly applied and too low to drive reductions.

Energy Efficiency

Alberta is the only North American jurisdiction with no conservation programs. I was on a panel hosted by Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance, and spoke about need to build a robust and economy-wide policy to achieve “all cost effective conservation.” I proposed including ambitious targets, mechanisms to make conservation profitable for utilities and business, and strict codes and standards.

Alberta’s active engagement is putting a whole new sense of possibility for Canada’s contribution to averting dangerous climate change.