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As the United Nations climate conference begins, Alberta has a lot at stake

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As the United Nations climate conference begins, Alberta has a lot at stake

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As world leaders descend on Glasgow this week for the start of the 2021 United Nations Climate Conference, Alberta – the Canadian jurisdiction with perhaps the most at stake – will be watching.

COP26, as it is called, will be the largest global summit on climate change since Paris in 2015.

At that time, Canada pledged to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030, with the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5. degree Celsius.

This goal has led directly to a number of actions taken by the Trudeau government, including the introduction of a federal carbon price and a clean fuel standard that is on the way.

The federal government has since raised the bar on its own emission reduction ambitions, saying it is now aiming for a 40 to 45 percent reduction by 2035. To help meet this target, the government has announced targets for five-year emission reduction for the oil and gas industry as well as methane regulations.

These types of political implications are why many residents of Alberta – home to Canada’s oil and gas industry – will be watching closely what comes from the Glasgow summit.

“This is important. It influences policy and resource development,” said Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, a lobby group representing oil and gas companies.

Goodman said that in the past the oil and gas industry may have watched UN climate summits with a sense of dread, this is no longer the case. Since Paris, Goodman said, the industry has undergone a radical shift in its understanding of the problem of climate change, with many companies making net zero commitments themselves and investing in everything from hydrogen to capture and storage. from carbon to wind power.

“Most energy companies in Canada know they are going through an energy transition. And they went way beyond just accepting that, to look at the opportunities, ”Goodman said.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) will send its own delegation to the Glasgow summit, including CAPP President Tim McMillan.

However, neither Alberta Premier Jason Kenney nor any of his ministers will be attending the climate summit. In an email, Environment Minister Jason Nixon said the UCP government was avoiding non-essential travel for the time being, adding: “Another politician flying to Glasgow will not make any significant difference.”

Nixon said Alberta takes climate change seriously, highlighting the province’s own methane reduction targets as well as its early phase-out of coal-fired electricity.

But he said Alberta and the province’s energy industry are frustrated with Canada’s “evolving emissions targets” and need clarity and predictability in climate policy.

Gary Mar, chairman and CEO of Calgary-based non-partisan think tank The Canada West Foundation, said many Albertans fear COP26 will mean an increasingly aggressive push towards total elimination of fuels. fossils. He said the energy industry is making real progress in reducing emissions, but it is foolish to suggest that it can switch overnight or be replaced tomorrow by renewables.

“You can’t really transition just by taking things away. You actually have to know what it’s going to be replaced with, ”said Mar.

Critics, however, say Alberta is not doing all it can on the climate front. The province doesn’t even have an overall emissions goal in place, said Simon Dyer, deputy executive director of the Pembina Institute, a clean energy think tank.

“Alberta is responsible for the largest proportion of Canada’s total emissions, the oil and gas sector is the largest economic sub-sector, so Canada cannot meet the emissions reductions it needs to achieve.” without the jurisdiction responsible for most of those shows, ”Dyer says.

Dan Balaban, chief executive of Alberta-based renewable energy company Greengate Power, said Canada must use the Glasgow summit as an incentive to move beyond talk and take action. He said it is important to secure public funds for the renewable energy sector, even though it may involve difficult choices.

“There are all kinds of industries competing for government support one way or another. The fossil fuel industry as well as the renewable energy industry, ”Balaban said.

“And if we are to achieve our net zero ambitions, we have to make it very clear who we intend to support in the future.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 30, 2021.

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