Alberta Climate Change Plan: Triple Oil Production; Do Nothing; Blame Consumers

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Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach announced a “climate change plan” today that involves tripling oil production and waiting until 2020 before even beginning to curtail CO2 emissions.

“It would be very difficult to bring in real reductions, immediate reductions, without devastating the economy and the quality of life of Albertans,” Stelmach told reporters, without explaining why it is necessary to multiply Alberta’s current $73 billion US in fossil fuel exports in order to avoid “devastating the economy.”

But the most offensive part of Premier Stelmach’s political spin is the attempts that he, his ministers and his private-sector stalking horses are making to shift responsibility for action onto consumers.

Stelmach, for example, told the Edmonton Sun yesterday that,

“The whole issue of carbon dioxide emissions is a partnership between industry and the consumer. Because if you weren’t consuming anything, you wouldn’t be creating carbon dioxide. So industry will do its part. Consumers will have to do their part.”

Energy Minister Rob Renner added that Stelmach’s government will promote emission reduction by “providing incentives to Albertans to consume less energy in their homes.”

“On an individual basis, it may not seem like it makes that much difference,” Renner said. “But you replace a few million light bulbs and it makes a huge difference.”

So, major industrial emitters, which produce more than 53 per cent of greenhouse gases in Canada and a great deal more in Alberta, get a free pass to expand their operations to the greatest extent possible, while individual taxpayers bear the blame for rising emissions.

This all makes sense, according to Roger Gibbons, head of the Calgary-based Canada West Foundation, a non-profit think tank. Gibbons told the Globe and Mail yesterday that without consumer measures, final-emitter regulations would be “a dangerous overall strategy for Alberta to pursue.” Such a move, he said, would “really paint a target on the provincial energy sector. We need people to realize that there has to be some large public response rather than focusing on the big emitters.”

The tar sands is Canada’s single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Tar sands developments are responsible for 50 per cent of the emission increases that Canada has “enjoyed” 1990. Doesn’t it make sense to “paint a target on the provincial energy sector”?

Instead, we get an emission reduction strategy that makes no effort to reduce emissions. Even Stelmach’s long-term goal, to reduce emissions 14 per cent from from 2005 levels by 2050, is inadequate to the point of laughability.

And we get a continuation of the spin: Canadian politicians have blamed India, for not going first in the effort to reduce emissions. They have blamed China for trying to pull its economy out of poverty. They have blamed UN negotiators for crafting an imperfect Kyoto Protocol. And they have blamed consumers. With a few inspiring exceptions in Quebec and British Columbia, they have done everything but exercise even the tiniest bit of leadership.

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