Alberta's United Conservative Party government releases 'aspirational' climate plan

Alberta's United Conservative Party government released a climate plan Wednesday that it hopes will take the province to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 but offers few details, targets or new measures on how it would get there.

Instead, Environment Minister Sonya Savage has promised a package of commissions, committees and studies to determine what Alberta needs to do.

“You can't just pick random targets with a random date and say we're going to get there,'' Savage said. ``We have to do the hard work and that's what our plan is going to do.''

Alberta faces huge carbon challenges. The latest federal inventory indicates that the province produces about 38 per cent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions with only 11 per cent of its population.

Wednesday's plan, which the government calls “aspirational,'' describes past measures the province has taken to reduce its emissions and celebrates successes such as its renewable electricity boom. It is the first time the government has made any kind of commitment to net-zero in any time frame.

But for future successes, it will look to previously touted technologies such as carbon capture and storage, as well as the suggestions of a promised round of consultations and studies.

Alberta will look at lowering the cap on oilsands emissions if the industry can show it's practical, Savage said. The use of more renewable fuels is to be considered. The province is to seek to cut methane emissions by 80 per cent, slightly better than the federal target.

A new committee of Indigenous people and youth is also to be formed and the government said it will consider the climate effect of its land-use decisions.

Alberta has asked for proposals for consultants to go through the provincial economy sector by sector and analyze what's achievable, Savage said.

The plan contains no interim targets for reductions, spending or investment – despite the daunting task of scaling up carbon capture to do more than store the small fraction of Alberta's emissions it currently sequesters. Nor does the plan propose regulation or legislation to move the province toward net-zero.

Savage said there's no point having those until the homework is done.

“The question isn't whether you legislate the targets,'' she said. “It's about having realistic pathways to get there and providing the supportive policies.''

© 2023 The Canadian Press

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