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Ottawa urged to match $2b carbon initiative

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Premier Ed Stelmach called on the federal government Thursday to cough up a matching $2 billion for carbon capture and storage technology, the same day Ottawa rolled out a series of austerity measures during tough economic times.

Stelmach also railed against plans for a North American cap-and-trade market, insisting Americans can’t be trusted to operate it and that it will send money out of Alberta, while doing little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The premier said he chatted over the weekend with federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice in Montreal — and later Monday with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in Toronto — about Ottawa contributing dollars to carbon capture and storage to help the country meet its environmental targets.

It’s incumbent upon Ottawa to pony up some cash — similar to the $2 billion already committed by Alberta–if Ottawa is going to continue to talk about the provincial strategy being the Canadian plan, Stelmach said.

“If it’s the Canadian plan then step up to the plate,” the premier told reporters at the legislature.

“If carbon capture is the solution that the federal government may be looking to you’d certainly think they’d be able to match the $2-billion, minimum.”

The funding of carbon capture projects must be a three-way deal, he insisted, that includes contributions from the federal and provincial governments as well as energy companies.

But when asked last week whether Ottawa would kick in money for carbon capture and storage, Prentice–who will be speaking on Ottawa’s environmental plans in Lake Louise today–said funding wasn’t on the horizon for now. Instead, Prentice said the federal government is focusing on developing a new natural gas basin in northern Canada and more hydroelectric projects.

Back in Edmonton on Thursday, Stelmach again vented over proposals for a North American cap-and-trade emissions reduction program, saying there’s no transparency in the U. S. or China for such a strategy and little evidence it will prove worthwhile to Alberta.

“We’re going to put the faith into a group of individuals that are going to trade credits, make a whole bunch of money on trading the credits, and still (there’s)no proof that there will be actual reductions in carbon in any jurisdiction, let alone provide some sort of detailed, transparent plan on how they’re going to do it?” the premier fumed.

“We’re going to watch it very carefully, but I don’t know how anybody can agree to a plan on cap and trade without any transparency policy in place.”

The premier said a wider cap-and-trade policy for pricing carbon emissions would unduly hurt Alberta’s economy on several fronts. “All it’s going to do is drive consumer costs up. It’s going to diminish our global competitiveness.”

However, a head of Alberta’s climate change policy said earlier this week that Alberta’s closed provincial carbon market to focus on attracting capital and developing technology is what is warranted today — but that won’t always be the case.

“We’re not an island. We exist in a broader North American marketplace. As the United States or as Canada moves forward, obviously there are going to be discussions about that.” said Bob Savage, senior manager of mitigation for Alberta’s climate change policy.

Others in industry and environmental organizations agree that Alberta will have to throw its support into a national or North America-wide system of pricing carbon and trading credits in order for significant greenhouse gas reductions to take place.

Doug MacLeod, environment vice-president at Epcor, said Alberta has taken a major lead in setting up its own carbon market, but it’s one that is too small on its own going forward.

“From a carbon-trading perspective, we want to find the lowest cost emission offsets. And it’s very possible that there’s cheaper offsets and more readily avail-able offsets in other parts of Canada or even North America for that matter.And we can’t access them,” MacLeod said, noting that harmonization of federal and provincial climate change regulations is also needed in the months ahead.

At the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank, Dan Woynillowicz said the Alberta government’s climate change plan is flawed because it doesn’t call for an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions until 2020.

In order for companies to be motivated to reduce emissions at all, a national plan is needed, he said. “The government of Alberta is being somewhat isolationist.”

By Jason Fekete And Kelly Cryderman, Calgary Herald


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