It would seem clear to anyone whose head is not buried in the sand (or is watching too much Fox News) that times and attitudes are changing. People are becoming more aware of the impact of human activity on the planet and beginning to take responsibility. If that awareness is not broadly clear across the U.S., it certainly is in the land up North.
Recent elections have swept out the oil-friendly regime of Stephen Harper and replaced him with Justin Trudeau, who won on a campaign that promised to end fossil fuel subsides and boost investment in renewables. But the return of liberal leadership to Ottawa, Canada, is not nearly as surprising as the changing of the provincial guard that occurred in Alberta, the world’s tar sands capital. The election of the New Democratic Party’s candidate, Rachel Notley, was declared by BBC News to be a “political earthquake.”
Why an earthquake? The last time the right-leaning Progressive Conservatives were not running the show in Alberta, Richard Nixon was still the U.S. president. Like Trudeau, Alberta’s Notley made dealing with climate change a central focus of her campaign. Not wasting any time, she unveiled a new climate action plan at the end of November, just days before the Paris climate summit. The plan includes an economy-wide carbon tax, putting a cap on emissions from oil sands developments, and phasing out coal-fired power plants by 2030. The strategy will also cut methane emissions 45 percent by 2025.
“This is the day we step up,” said Notley, “at long last, to one of the world’s biggest problems. This is the day we stop denying there is an issue. And this is the day we do our part.”
This, in the province that, with only 10 percent of the population, has long been Canada’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter. Notley’s stated goal: turn Alberta into “one of the world’s most progressive and forward-looking energy producers.”
The carbon tax of $30 per ton will be phased-in by January 2018, and is expected to bring in $3 billion in revenue. Notley stated that those funds would be invested in clean-technology research, public transportation and energy-efficiency programs. She also spoke of “rehabilitating the province’s environmental reputation.”
Acknowledging the changing sentiment, Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said, “We expect today’s announcement to further enhance the reputation of our sector and improve our province’s environmental credibility as we seek to expand market access.”
Still, while these new aggressive targets might seem extreme to some, the cap on oil sands emissions, at 100 megatons, still leaves room for tar sands extraction, which emits 70 megatons today, to grow.
Like the agreement that is likely to emerge from the two-week summit in Paris, it won’t be everything that every environmentalist would like to see. But then it will most certainly be an important next step.
Meanwhile, in Paris this week, Prime Minister Trudeau said: “Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet. The rest of us have a lot to learn. And no time to waste.”
A number of indigenous leaders accompanied Trudeau to Paris, as part of his delegation.
Image credit Flickr/thekirbster
RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org