Interprovincial carbon markets could be part of Alberta climate change strategy

Environment Minister Kyle Fawcett says Alberta must form partnerships with other provinces as part of its new climate change strategy and he isn’t ruling out new agreements on carbon trading across borders.

In a recent interview, Fawcett said networking with other jurisdictions was a key goal as he attended the United Nations-sponsored climate change conference in Lima in December.

He said meetings with ministers from Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia — as well as representatives of the California governor’s office — included conversations about carbon offset markets, where greenhouse gas emitters can purchase carbon reductions from other sources to compensate for their own output.

“There definitely was an exchange of ideas around, first of all, those offset protocols but also around whether there’s opportunities to open offset markets across borders. The offset market has started to mature a little bit,” said Fawcett.

The minister noted that Alberta has its own carbon offset protocols that can be used by large greenhouse gas emitters within the province to meet their obligations to cut emissions intensity by 12 per cent annually under the current provincial climate change plan.

Quebec and California have a bilateral agreement that allows emissions trading within the two jurisdictions, but plans for a broader cross-border carbon offset market have not yet materialized.

“Certainly Quebec and California have a very interesting story in the jurisdictional agreements they had with each other. And we were definitely interested in how those agreements are perceived by both of those parties,” said Fawcett.

The Progressive Conservative government had originally planned to unveil its new climate change framework by the end of 2014, but Premier Jim Prentice announced just before Christmas that more work is needed and it would be pushed into the new year.

Fawcett said no decisions have been made on cross-border carbon offsets, but the idea is being analyzed as part of the development of the climate change framework.

He said it could tie in with Alberta’s desire to see a “consistent” price on carbon established across North America.

However, the notion was dismissed by opposition parties, who instead want to see the Tory government take firm climate change action such as a renewable energy strategy, an accelerated phase-out of burning coal, and a toughening of the province’s emission reduction targets and $15-per-tonne carbon levy.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said carbon offsets are an “interesting idea” but in the absence of concrete action by Alberta, a multi-jurisdiction market would result in a “wealth transfer from here to those other provinces that are doing a better job on renewable energy.”

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the provincial government wants to abdicate its duties.

“Alberta needs to be a leader in the environment … they’re expecting others to be leaders and we’ll just pay them money for their leadership,” he said.

Fawcett said “sub-national jurisdictions” such as the provinces are going to play a key role in the development of climate change policy ahead of the next UN conference on the issue, slated for Paris late in 2015.

“We’re very open to working with other jurisdictions in the interests of Albertans and Alberta’s industry … as to how we might want to collaborate and share information.”

jwood@calgaryherald.com

Twitter.com/JamesWoodHerald

 

 

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