Alberta’s strategy to address climate change has proven to be little more than “wishful thinking.”
When the Alberta government introduced its Climate Change Strategy in 2008, the document was branded with the words “Responsibility, Leadership and Action” but eight years later – with greenhouse gas emissions nowhere close to meeting the provincial target – there’s little evidence of any of those concepts.
The province has delayed the time frame to update its carbon levy from September to the end the year but its likely emissions will increase in any policy. The auditor general recently criticized the government’s oversight of its climate strategy as “troubling” and “disturbing.” What went wrong? Consider the insight of no less of an authority on government and climate change policy than Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “No country is going to undertake actions on climate change, no matter what they say … that is going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their economy,” Harper said in June.
That logic presumably applies to Wild Rose Country.
Alberta isn’t alone in over promising and under delivering. The federal government has been criticized because Canada isn’t going to meet its 2020 emission reduction targets and Ontario was blasted by its environmental watchdog this month for doing little beyond trumpeting its decision to stop burning coal to generate electricity to address the climate issue.
The stakes in Alberta are disproportionately higher than other jurisdictions. The province has become vital to a national economy increasingly based on natural resources but its carbon-intense heavy industries also generate 48 per cent of GHGs produced annually in Canada
For a province that stresses securing a “social licence” for oil sands development – from campaigning for access to overseas markets to lobbying for pipeline approvals – the failure to meet anything close to the “achievable” limits set for GHG emissions is a failure in leadership.
To help with the global image of its oil, Alberta needs to stop falling short of its well-publicized targets.
It also isn’t advancing the cause to miss “achievable” targets and simply reinforces that market forces are the only constraint on oil sands development in a province that’s growing rich from its oil wealth. Expecting any change might be simply “wishful thinking.”