By Janet Keeping, Leader, Green Party of Alberta
The Canadian federal government recently announced it would impose a carbon reduction scheme on any province that does not take steps on its own to price carbon effectively. The goal is to ensure that Canada meets its commitments under the international agreement signed in Paris last year to reduce emissions and keep global warming under 2 C degrees.
Although the ND government in Alberta likes to brag about being climate leaders, it has said it will not support this federal initiative, unless it sees movement on new pipeline approvals. This shows conclusively that the main preoccupation of the NDs is not the best interests of Albertans but appeasement of the oil and gas industry.
Mike Hudema of Greenpeace Canada puts it well: the Alberta government “needs to realize that new pipelines aren’t compatible with a climate safe future and there’s no climate leadership to be found in building one. It’s incredible that the Alberta government would withhold its support for an action to combat climate change until it gets a new pipeline that further accelerates the problem … Rather than pushing to deepen the problem, the [Alberta] government should be focusing on clean energy solutions that get us out of them and create thousands of jobs in the process.”
The provincial government’s behaviour on this file is a tragedy for Albertans. We need to be less dependent on damaging carbon industries, not more so. Oil sands production should not be allowed to expand, and if there were no expansion, there would be no need for new pipelines. Albertans need to live within our existing pipeline means and, contrary to increasing production rates, we need to rein them in through much tougher enforcement of environmental regulations.
Alberta has for too long operated under the principle that what’s good for the oil and gas industry is good for Albertans. That principle has never been wholly valid but now is wildly out of whack with reality.
Producing from the oil sands as fast as possible is folly for several reasons. Even looked at from the narrow economic point of view, it’s a mistake: current prices are low and the greater returns we could get when prices are higher – which is inevitable as oil and gas will be needed for some purposes for a long time to come – are foregone if we sell on the cheap now.
More broadly, we know we have to ratchet down the impact of the industry, not only because the carbon and other GHG emissions are destructive to the atmosphere, but also to diminish the damage being done 24/7 by operations to Alberta eco-systems (water, air, soil) and to us as people both indigenous and non-indigenous, but especially the former.
The time has arrived for putting our petro-state tendencies behind us. Delaying the transition to a lower carbon regime by pathetic efforts to extort pipeline approvals from a federal government trying to ensure Canada reaches its Paris commitments can only do Albertans harm.
We can choose: move with the times and capture our share of the investment and jobs that will pour into cleaner energy paths or wallow in the past ensuring we are left in the dust as the rest of the world moves on.
It’s not hard to figure out which direction Alberta should be moving in, and it is not toward more pipelines. Only politicians who have capitulated to the fossil fuel industries could choose to ignore the obvious.
Janet Keeping is leader of the Green Party of Alberta.
A version of this blog was first published on the Troy Media site at: http://www.troymedia.com/2016/10/09/alberta-remains-petro-state-ndp/