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Climate Leadership Plan speech

"This is the day we step up, at long last, to one of the world’s biggest problems — the pollution that is causing climate change."

This is a proud and important day for Alberta.

First of all, because there’s going to be a great football game later today.

And secondly, because this is the day we set a better course for our economic future.

This is the day we start to mobilize capital and resources to create green jobs, green energy, green infrastructure, and a strong, environmentally-responsible, sustainable and visionary Alberta energy industry with a great future.

This is the day we step up, at long last, to one of the world’s biggest problems — the pollution that is causing climate change.

This is the day we stop denying there is an issue.

This is the day we do our part.

Our goal is to become one of the world’s most progressive and forward-looking energy producers.

In this we are turning the page on the mistaken policies of the past.

Policies that have failed to provide the leadership our province needed.

Instead, we are going to act to protect the health of our children.

We are going to do our part to address one of the world’s greatest problems.

We are going to put capital to work investing in new technologies, better efficiency, and new job-creating investments in green infrastructure.

And we are going to write a made-in-Alberta policy that works for our province and our industries, and keeps our capital here in Alberta.

We’re going to get this right!

Friends, climate change is real.

It is caused by human activity.

And it requires an effective response.

If you want proof, go and look at the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park.

The amount of ice lost there in the past hundred years is shocking, and getting steadily worse.

What are the long-term consequences for Albertans — and for our drinking water, our farms and ranches, and our economy — if we lose the glaciers that feed so many of our rivers and streams?

The front line of climate change is right here in Alberta.

The front line of climate change is also on every coast, in every city, on every ocean and lake in the world.

This is a challenge we must address.

Friends, all Canadians directly benefit from the growth of the energy industry.

Hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs depend directly on energy, right across this country.

Health care, education and other public services are being financed in good part by the economic growth brought by our energy industry — here in Alberta, and in every jurisdiction in Canada.

That is going to continue, for many decades to come.

But for it to continue, in our role as Canada’s principal energy producer, we need to step up to the climate change issue.

Thoughtful people in our energy industry — including the industry leaders standing with me here today — have been saying for a long time that we can and we must do a better job.

We got a major wake-up call on this a few weeks ago, in the form of a kick in the teeth from the Government of the United States.

Unfairly in my view, the President of the United States claimed that our production is some of the “dirtiest oil in the world”.

That is the reputation that mistaken government policies have earned for us.

We are a landlocked energy producer with a single market. A single market that just took a very hard run at us.

We need to do better.

And we are going to do better.

Last spring our government appointed an advisory panel chaired by Dr. Andrew Leach from the University of Alberta.

He was joined in his work by Linda Coady, Gordon Lambert, Stephanie Cairns, and Angela Adams.

This panel — leaders in their fields — have carefully listened to the views of thousands of fellow citizens.

And have given us their best advice on how we can responsibly address climate change.

The Government of Alberta has benefited enormously from this advice, and from the contributions of the many Albertans who took part.

Thank you, each and every one of you, for this critically-important contribution to our province and to our country.

I also want to thank our amazing Environment Minister, Shannon Phillips, for her passion, dedication and commitment on this issue. Shannon you have inspired us all.

So here is what we’re going to do.

First, Alberta is going to move away from coal and towards clean power.

As recommended by the Advisory panel, we will implement an accelerated phase out of coal.

We will phase out all coal emissions by 2030.

We will encourage the generation of clean, renewable electricity in its place.

Specifically, we will aim to replace two-thirds of our existing coal electricity with renewable energy.

We will keep the costs of renewables as low as possible by using market mechanisms, such as auctioning.

We will work in cooperation with Alberta’s electricity generators, with our power regulator the Alberta Utilities Commission, and the Alberta Electricity System Operator, to implement these goals.

The Government will appoint a facilitator and negotiator to help us develop and implement this plan.

We will pursue this policy without endangering the reliability of our electricity system. We will maintain a reasonable stability in prices to consumers and business. And we will not unnecessarily strand capital.

Second, we’re going to reduce pollution, by putting a price on it.

We all contribute to carbon pollution, and we can all be part of the solution.

By “we” I mean industry and mining; I mean all of us in our cars; I mean the many ways we currently burn carbon and put it in the atmosphere for our children to breath.

Every jurisdiction in the world needs to act on this issue, and we are going to do so.

By putting a price on pollution, we will create a market-based economic incentive to reduce it and to invest in alternatives.

As recommended by our climate change panel, Alberta will be phasing in a $30 per ton economy-wide carbon price.

Alberta’s new carbon price will be implemented in two steps. We will implement a $20 economy-wide price in January 2017, and then a $30 price in January 2018.

Like the plans being implemented in California and Quebec, this carbon price will apply a performance-based standard to emitters — but unlike those systems, all the capital will remain in our province.

This carbon price will be adjusted to keep pace with prices and growth, taking account of what our peer jurisdictions and competitors do.

We will put every penny raised through the carbon price to work here in Alberta — building our economy, creating jobs, and doubling down on efforts to reduce pollution and promote greater efficiency.

The Alberta carbon price will therefore be revenue-neutral, fully recycled back into the Alberta economy.

To that end, revenue will be reinvested directly into measures to reduce pollution — including clean research and technology; green infrastructure like public transit; to help finance the transition to renewable energy; and efficiency programs to help people reduce their energy use.

Revenue from Alberta’s new carbon price will also be invested into an adjustment fund. This fund will help individuals and families make ends meet as this new policy is implemented. This adjustment fund will also provide transition help to small business, to First Nations, and to people working in the coal industry.

As our emissions go down, so will the funds collected. We do not want the government to become dependent on these revenues.

When our economy is back on its feet we can consider whether there is any role for some of these funds to help pay down public debt — but not before.

I am very excited to be standing here with leaders from our energy industry, and leaders from civil society engaged in environmental issues.

Teaming up to tackle major challenges is the Alberta Way, and we are going to build a better future together, the Alberta way.

On the advice of these leaders from both industry and civil society, our Government will introduce an overall oil sands emissions limit.

Our oil sands currently generate approximately 70 megatons of carbon a year.

We will legislate an overall emissions limit of 100 megatons, plus a provision for new upgrading and co-generation.

The simple fact is this: Alberta can’t let its emissions grow without limit. But we can grow our economy by applying technology to reduce our carbon output per barrel. And that is what this limit will promote.

I’m hopeful that these policies, taken overall, will lead to a new collaborative conversation about Canada’s energy infrastructure on its merits, and to a significant de-escalation of conflict worldwide about the Alberta oil sands.

Let me highlight two further elements of our program.

Our government will act to reduce methane emissions. Acting effectively on this issue will contribute very substantially to the emissions reductions we are looking for — not far from the reductions we will achieve from phasing out coal.

And last but not least, we will implement an energy efficiency program. Alberta is the only jurisdiction in  Canada without such a program. It can make a fundamental contribution to our overall reductions.

Taken together, these policies will “bend the curve” of Alberta’s emissions — and allow us to stabilize and begin to reduce them. 

Friends, I am extremely proud of the wide consensus we have achieved on these issues. Government, industry and civil society in Alberta are coming together. That’s how we do things in Alberta. We all know how important these issues are, and we know what a remarkable contribution we can make to both our economic future and to our environment by getting these policies right.

Alberta is leading again!

We are releasing the full report of the climate change panel today.

I’m inviting all Albertans to read it carefully, and to let us know what you think of our proposals as we move forward.

As we undertook to do in a recent set of conversations with our province’s Indigenous Leaders, we will be undertaking a careful consultation with Albertan First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples on these issues.

And we will carefully consult all stakeholders and the public on how these policies will be implemented, in the weeks and months to come.

Friends, the Government of Alberta is going to stop being the problem, and is going to be part of the solution.

Our government is going to act decisively on these issues.

So that Albertans go back to the role we should be playing on energy and environmental issues.

We are going to be leaders.

We are going to be one of the world’s most progressive and environmentally-responsible energy producers.

We will protect the health of our children.

We will do our part to address one of the world’s biggest problems.

We will lay the foundations for jobs and prosperity — and a great future for Alberta’s energy industry.

Alberta gets things done.

And we are going to get this done — by working together,  by making better choices, and by building a better economic and environmental future… for us all.

Thank you.