Alberta cancels carbon trading amid a regional climate change crisis

Ottawa, Calgary and Paris — Canada’s oil-rich Alberta government said it had cut carbon emissions from oil sands projects by 80 percent. The cuts mean an immediate expiration of a 10-year emissions trading system, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

What’s happening?

“The five projects” comprising 100 percent of “emissions trading in Alberta” will revert to fossil fuels because the province “no longer believes that demand will permit its continued trading,” Premier Rachel Notley said Wednesday.

How will Alberta meet its 2020 targets?

Notley said Alberta will cut emissions by 83 million tonnes a year in 2020, almost 80 percent of its original targets, by completely phasing out the province’s emissions trading by year-end.

Ottawa also plans to save carbon emission targets from Canada’s provinces, saying it won’t consider any future targets until those provinces figure out how to meet the international standards introduced in the Paris Climate Accord.

What are the Paris targets?

The Paris agreement was developed and negotiated by 195 countries, including Canada, with the aim of cutting emissions in order to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels.

What does Alberta’s new stance mean for the Paris agreement?

Canada agreed to reduce its emissions 33 percent by 2030 and increase it by another 17 percent by the same date.

The government has also committed to improving energy efficiency of all existing homes and businesses, building more public transit and hiking solar and wind power generation.

Can other provinces face restrictions in light of Alberta’s move?

Alberta doesn’t plan to set any emission reduction targets for the four other provinces in the country.

What if Alberta’s targets are suspended by the courts?

The province has “no plans to suspend its aggressive plan” to increase renewable energy and electricity production, said spokesman Daniel Tillema.

“Canada is providing historic levels of annual financial support to support Alberta’s efforts to meet its ambitious plan to address climate change,” Tillema said.

Why did Alberta announce its new climate change plans without consultation with other provinces?

Trudeau offered to set carbon limits for Alberta and other provinces earlier this year in exchange for Notley’s support in the latest political crisis that has wracked the country.

The coal plants Alberta was originally seeking to shutter were plants that created 10 percent of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions. The province struck a deal with Ottawa that would see the provinces increase other forms of energy production to replace coal.

Can the province be sued by other provinces?

Alberta is bound by an order to reduce emissions by 2020 and may be sued.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper floated a complaint earlier this year, saying it was unfair that Alberta has all the advantages of renewable energy and cheap oil, while still suffering economic losses from the changing climate.

What can provinces do in the meantime?

The countries of California and Quebec have agreed to help Alberta extend its exchange with Quebec by buying carbon offsets — the offsets provided to other countries to compensate for emissions growth caused by oil sands extraction.

According to Alberta’s plan, provinces must comply with the Paris agreement to keep meeting their set target of 17 percent emissions reduction by 2030.

What does this mean for Ottawa?

Notley’s action could put a strain on negotiations to create a national carbon price system under the federal government’s climate change framework.

Trudeau says the provinces can buy offsets, but if they don’t sell many, they could end up with a smaller share of the revenue collected by the federal government to help with climate change.

What is Alberta offering as compensation?

The province said it is considering paying compensation to industries affected by the provincial carbon price plan.

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