All parties to this proceeding agree that climate change is an existential challenge. It is a threat of the highest order to the country, and indeed to the world.

Chief Justice Richard Wagner
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Earth Hour: Cities around the world turn lights off

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Jason Kenney says Alberta didn’t prep carbon tax fallback plan, was hoping to win in court

Alberta had challenged the federal tax, arguing it was an unconstitutional intrusion

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his government didn’t prepare a fallback plan on implementing a consumer carbon tax because they were hoping to win in the country’s top court.

Kenney said the province was buoyed by a lower court win in Alberta, and noted that three of the nine Supreme Court justices had concerns with Thursday’s majority decision that the tax is onside with the Constitution.

“It was our hope that we would win,” Kenney told reporters Friday. “But now we’re going to consult with Albertans on the path forward.”

Alberta is currently paying a federally imposed levy, which is set to go up to $40 a tonne this year and $50 a tonne next year. It will collect more than $2 billion in annual revenue by 2022.

About 90 per cent of that is rebated to Albertans and the rest is invested in green projects.

Climate change and the constitution

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario had challenged the federal tax in court, arguing it was an unconstitutional intrusion on provincial rights to manage their resources.

The high court, in a six-three decision, said climate change is a critical global problem and that Canada cannot effectively fight it by allowing a patchwork of programs or opt-outs.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Thursday that, in light of the court decision, his government would look at introducing its own carbon tax for fuel, similar to a model used in New Brunswick.

Kenney said Alberta is looking at many options, including the New Brunswick model or perhaps Quebec’s cap-and-trade system.

“Our key goal will be to minimize the cost of any new policy on Albertans and on our economy as we struggle to recover from the COVID recession,” Kenney said Friday.

New Brunswick’s program sets a per-tonne price on carbon, then reduces the province’s gas tax by a similar amount to help neutralize the cost to consumers.

Alberta has had a carbon tax on large greenhouse gas emitters for more than a decade.

Alberta Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Kenney has wasted precious time by not having an Alberta friendly Plan B ready to go.

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The home of Canada’s energy sector is set to outpace the country in renewables growth: forecast

Alberta and Saskatchewan are expected to overtake Ontario in renewable power capacity

The home of Canada’s oil and gas industry is expected to lead the country in renewable energy growth, according to the Canada Energy Regulator.

The CER released its short-term outlook today, offering a glimpse of where Canadians will get most of the electricity they use in the future.

Some of the takeaways:

  • Saskatchewan and Alberta are expected to outpace the country in the transition to renewable electricity.
  • Ontario’s renewable power push is slowing.
  • Overall, however, the share of Canada’s electricity coming from renewables is increasing.

The federal regulator’s outlook examines current and future electricity trends for nuclear energy, fossil fuels and renewables — wind, solar, hydroelectricity, biomass and geothermal. It doesn’t break down how much provinces and territories rely on non-renewables versus renewables for transportation and heating.

Canada has set an ambitious target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Power generation accounts for 9 per cent of the country’s total emissions, with coal and natural gas accounting for most of its greenhouse gas emissions. Alberta is responsible for over 50 per cent of those emissions, followed by Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.

Why would the Prairies lead in renewables?

While Ontario may have led the growth in renewable energy over the last decade by phasing out coal, it’s now expected to be a laggard.

CER’s short-term forecast says Alberta is expected to see considerable growth in solar power, while Saskatchewan will more than triple its wind power capacity. Coal is in decline in both Alberta and Saskatchewan and a number of new renewable projects are set to start there.

“I know there are people out there, when they think of Alberta and Saskatchewan, they may think of oil and gas production,” said Darren Christie, the CER’s chief economist. “The reality is the Prairies are a place with a lot of wind and sun. So it’s kind of ripe for growth.”

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Alberta relaxed far more environmental rules than any other government in Canada during pandemic, study finds

Alberta relaxed or suspended 54 regulations, but also has far more environmental rules than many places: study

Alberta relaxed more environmental rules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic than any other government in Canada, says a study from the University of Calgary.

“I didn’t find any other jurisdiction that went as far as Alberta did,” said Victoria Goodday, a researcher at the university’s School of Public Policy. “The degree of rollbacks, they were most significant in Alberta.”

Goodday noticed that after the pandemic hit last spring, governments across Canada began loosening environmental restrictions.

She tallied an easing of 143 different rules and regulations from every jurisdiction in the country except Manitoba. Most benefited the oil and gas industry.

Of that total, 54 were in Alberta, which suspended all monitoring and reporting requirements — except those pertaining to water — for the province’s resource industries.

That was by far the highest number, Goodday found, although her study notes the province’s large oil and gas sector means it has more regulations to begin with.

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Supreme Court rules Ottawa’s carbon tax is constitutional

In 6-3 decision, top court finds federal government can impose nationwide pricing standards

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the federal Liberal government’s carbon pricing regime is constitutional — a major decision that allows Ottawa to push ahead with its ambitious plan to ensure every province and territory has a price on carbon to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Some provinces, notably Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan, have forcefully opposed the carbon tax, arguing natural resources are exclusively provincial jurisdiction under the constitution.

However, Chief Justice Richard Wagner, writing for the majority, said the federal government is free to impose minimum pricing standards because the threat of climate change is so great that it demands a co-ordinated national approach.

He agreed with the federal government that climate change is a truly pressing matter of national concern and it’s constitutionally permissible for Ottawa to take the lead on an issue that crosses provincial boundaries.

“Climate change is real. It is caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities, and it poses a grave threat to humanity’s future,” Wagner wrote.

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American Petroleum Institute endorses carbon pricing as oil and gas industry faces pressure on emissions

The oil and gas industry’s largest trade group Thursday endorsed a price on planet-warming carbon emissions, marking a major shift after it long resisted regulatory action on climate change.

The American Petroleum Institute’s move comes as President Joe Biden prepares to unveil a sweeping infrastructure proposal focused on curbing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to clean energy.

In a virtual meeting with White House officials Monday, industry leaders from companies such as ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips, along with API, also signaled support for market-based carbon pricing.

The endorsement represents a major shift in the industry’s strategy on the issue of climate change and a recognition of the new administration’s regulation measures following former President Donald Trump’s deregulation efforts aimed at helping U.S. producers.

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