The department is actively expanding its environmental tool kit, seeking more effective, cost efficient and innovative ways to achieve environmental outcomes. These new instruments and initiatives are being developed to address both emerging environmental issues and as alternatives to regulatory approaches for existing issues. Examples of these initiatives are:
New regulatory approaches
- Integrated Emissions Performance
In conjunction with the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, Alberta Environment and Alberta refineries are developing a new emissions benchmarking tool that tracks emission performance on a facility-wide basis or bubble approach. The initiative will supplement existing emissions regulations to promote continuous improvement.
- Legislated Greenhouse Gas Reductions
Alberta is the first province in Canada to introduce legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emission intensity from large industry. Bill 3, Climate Change and Emissions Management Amendment Act and its accompanying Specified Gas Emitters Regulation state companies that emit more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year must reduce their emissions intensity by 12 per cent starting July 1, 2007.
Market based instruments and fiscal mechanisms
- Climate Change and Emissions Management Act and Specified Gas Emitters Regulation: Obligation Options
If reducing emissions intensity by 12 per cent is not initially possible, large emitters will be able to invest in an Alberta-based technology fund. The fund, which will be established as a dedicated revenue fund, will be used to develop infrastructure to reduce emissions or to support research into innovative climate change solutions. Large emitters will be required to pay $15 per tonne to the technology fund for every tonne above the 12 per cent target.
- Alternatively, large emitters could also invest in projects outside their operations that reduce or offset emissions on their behalf. The projects must be Alberta-based. Prior to purchase, the offset reductions offered by an operation must be verified by a third party to ensure the emission reductions are real.
- Emissions Trading
The Emission Trading Regulation (Alberta Regulation 33/2006) encourages power stations to reduce their nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide emissions prior to mandatory improvements required in their Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act industrial approvals.
- As the electricity sector's emission trading system is implemented, Alberta Environment will explore the possibility of expanding the trading system to other sectors of the economy. Oilsands may be the first industry added to the trading system.
- Water allocation transfers
Water allocation transfers is a tool implemented in the South Saskatchewan River Basin in 2003, water allocation transfers are a market trading mechanism to provide incentives for water conservation among existing water users. Through a price mechanism, water allocation transfers redirect water to its most beneficial use.
- Wetland Restoration as Compensation for Wetland Loss
Under Alberta's Provincial Wetland Restoration/Compensation Guide, a wetland compensation program has been made available as a flexible tool to enhance wetland restoration efforts in the province. In cases where development activities will negatively impact a wetland, this program provides approval applicants with an opportunity to support the restoration of other wetlands through a designated wetland restoration agency.
- E-recycling fees
Consistent with existing approaches to waste management for used oil and tires, disposal fees are being established to enhance recycling and provide safer disposal of components from electronic waste.
- Electronic Reporting - Drinking Water
Alberta Environment's external website will soon provide access to current water quality data for water treatment facilities that hold Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act approvals, reassuring Albertans that the quality of drinking water is under constant scrutiny and is a safe, reliable source of water for domestic use.
- Electronic reporting - Continuous Emission Monitoring
Alberta Environment is piloting a project that will allow electronic transfer and publication of Continuous Emissions Monitoring (CEM) data. The electronic publication of ambient air quality information and Manual Stack Survey reporting are planned for future development. Publication of industrial notifications filed in accordance with authorizations issued under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act is also being contemplated for future development.
In addition, Alberta Environment is either leading or is a key participant in a number of initiatives to evaluate opportunities and initiate the design and development of alternative environmental policy tools including:
- Analysis of economic instruments for water conservation Alberta Environment is chairing a Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment task group that will oversee the study.
- Pilot project for the economic value of water Alberta Environment will work with its partners to determine of the true value of water in relation to the provincial economy as part of the Securing Tomorrow's Prosperity initiative.
- Environmental goods and services opportunities Alberta Environment is participating in a cross-ministry initiative with Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and Sustainable Resource Development to evaluate the potential for market mechanisms and incentive-based tools to promote sustainable agriculture.