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“Rational, Drama-Free Conversations as Energy Producers Can Be Had,” Says Alberta Environment Minister in Paris

Alberta Minister of Environment Shannon Phillips says her province is being celebrated on the international stage for its climate leadership.

“Alberta has put in place a robust set of policies and we are now leaders in the country and on the continent in terms of action,” she told reporters in Paris on Wednesday.

The province of Alberta is participating in the Canadian delegation to the Paris climate talks alongside many other provinces including B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

Philips says when it comes to its international reputation, Alberta has “turned the page.”

She added Alberta’s positive reception in Paris can be attributed to the new NDP government’s change in tone.

“We’ve demonstrated that it can be done: that rational, drama-free conversations as energy producers can be had and that leadership can come out of that.”

Last month Alberta announced a new climate plan that places an absolute cap on oilsands emissions, the phase-out of 18 coal-fired power plants and the establishment of a province-wide $30 per tonne carbon tax.

Creation of the plan brought together a broad range of environmental organizations and industry representatives. At the plan’s unveiling, Premier Rachel Notley was flanked by oil executives from some of Alberta’s top producing companies as well as members of the environmental movement.

“We’ve had broad recognition that Alberta needed to change how it approaches these matters,” Phillips said.

“The policies that preceded us at both the provincial and federal level…were mistaken.”

Phillips said Alberta’s new approach has opened the province up to more frank discussions with international trading partners.

She said new leadership “allows us to walk into the economy of the future instead of turning our back on all of that investment and economic growth that is very clearly on the horizon for the entire planet.”

At the COP21 climate talks in Paris nearly 200 countries are aiming to deliver an internationally binding climate agreement that will mandate the eventual decarbonization of the world's economy.

Alberta to Remain Oil-Producing Province

Phillips was quick to add that Alberta will not stop producing oil any time soon.

“Everyone understands that Alberta is in a unique position,” she said. “Everyone equally understands that Alberta has taken a leadership role and we are willing to work collaboratively with everyone in the Canadian federation and the federal government to ensure Canada does its fair share.”

On Tuesday Phillips said federal ministers are responsible for deciding Canada’s climate commitments within the internationally binding agreement currently being negotiated in Paris.

She told reporters Alberta has done enough to strengthen its provincial climate plan. “We have taken our share of responsibility.”

Canada’s current climate commitment, developed under the former Conservative government, requires a 30 per cent reduction in 2005 level emissions by 2030.

However, in Paris, Canada’s government has come out in support of stronger climate targets, which aim to prevent global temperatures from increasing above 1.5 degress Celsius. The current target, used in previous climate negotiations, requires countries to keep temperatures from rising two degrees.

When pressed on Alberta’s contribution to Canada’s rising greenhouse gas emissions, Phillips said an oilsands cap of 100 megatones of emissions is “appropriate” for “a heavy oil producer that powers the rest of the Canadian economy.”

Alberta Climate Plan Not Yet Implemented

She added her government has yet to implement the policies outlined in the new climate plan.

“We’ve put forward a very robust policy architecture that we’re very proud of,” she said. “Our job is to execute that.”

She added a change in investment priorities, with new efforts being made to support clean tech and renewables, will also influence Alberta’s emissions output.

Phillips also said her party campaigned with a promise to “implement the principles and guiding philosophies of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

“We’re serious about those matters,” she said, adding a more collaborative and engaged approach with First Nations can play a role in the implementation of those principles.

“This is the beginning of a conversation about how we are going to move forward in Alberta,” Phillips said.

“We are six, seven months into our mandate and we’re talking about 35-year timelines here,” she said. “A lot can change in that time.”

“What we have done is put in place a set of policies that will allow us to lead and allow us to reduce our emissions.” 

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