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Speech: Challenges and Opportunities of the Clean Energy Transition

"I believe Alberta provides a clear example of the choices energy producers can make to reduce emissions while continuing to foster a sustainable and responsible economy."

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Thank you. It’s an honour to share Alberta’s journey to climate leadership with you today.

It’s a story I am proud to tell, because I believe it showcases the leadership, innovation and courage that make Alberta a great place to live, work and do business.

I believe Alberta provides a clear example of the choices energy producers can make to reduce emissions while continuing to foster a sustainable and responsible economy.

The world will continue to need energy.

But nations around the world are increasingly looking for lower-carbon sources of energy.

In order to build a sustainable, viable, diversified economy, we cannot look at energy and environmental policy in isolation. Energy and environmental policy must work in the same direction, towards the same goals.

As energy producers, we share a responsibility to lead when it comes to reducing emissions, fostering innovative technologies and diversifying our future economies.

And today I will share how Alberta, as a leading energy producer, is taking action to fulfil that responsibility.

Energy Economy

We developed our Climate Leadership Plan with Albertans, business leaders, economists, environmental organizations, Indigenous peoples and municipalities.

There was a time when it would have been hard to imagine oil sands executives standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a progressive government and environmental groups in support of a climate change plan – but that’s exactly what has happened in Alberta.

Because together, we developed one of the most comprehensive and effective environmental policies in all of North America – and one of the strongest climate change plans of any energy producer, anywhere.

Climate Leadership Plan

Here’s what we’ve done.

First, we put a price on carbon – an economy-wide price that will reach 30 dollars per tonne of carbon dioxide in 2018.

A carbon price provides an incentive for everyone, industry and individuals alike, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and is widely acknowledged by experts, from the World Bank to the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development], to be one of the most economically efficient and effective ways to reduce emissions.

We also legislated that all the revenue raised by pricing carbon will be re-invested back into Alberta’s economy to further address climate change.

We will provide rebates to lower- and middle-income Albertans, to help them with the transition.

And the balance will be invested in measures to further reduce our province’s emissions, including renewable energy, research and technology, public transit, energy efficiency programs and to support communities transition off of coal.

This investment will double down on further emissions reductions.

In effect, the carbon we price today will help ensure there will be fewer emissions tomorrow.

Our plan also places a limit on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands at 100 megatonnes per year.

Continued economic growth is important. But it is equally important that growth does not come with unconstrained emissions.

Alberta is now one of the only oil jurisdictions in the world that will have a legislated limit on emissions from oil production. This emissions limit will drive innovation to enable the oil sands sector to produce the energy that fuels our economy, while reducing per barrel emissions.

So long as the world needs oil, Alberta will have among the most carbon competitive oil in the world.

Our plan also includes a commitment to reduce methane emissions by 45 per cent from 2014 levels by 2025.

We were extremely pleased to see Alberta’s methane policy echoed in the U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy and Arctic Leadership, which was signed when President Obama hosted Prime Minister Trudeau at a State Dinner earlier this year.

Our province is proud to be leading the way in innovative and effective climate change solutions and we hope to see more aspects of our plan adopted by other jurisdictions in the months and years to come.

But our plan is not just about oil and gas. It’s about everything we can do to reduce our emissions – from our largest industries to our everyday lives.

That’s why we’ve also taken steps to phase out coal-fired electricity emissions completely in the next 14 years. By 2030, 30 per cent of electricity used in Alberta will come from renewable sources. Cleaner-burning natural gas will also help the transition away from coal in the forms of cogeneration and high-efficiency generation that can help to balance a growing renewable sector.

I want to underline what a significant step this is.

Alberta currently produces more coal-based emissions than the rest of Canada combined and proportionally is more reliant on coal for its electricity than the United States. In less than 15 years, that will all change.

The steps we are taking will eliminate all coal-sourced emissions – ensuring cleaner air and building our renewable energy economy, as well as contributing to Canada’s emissions reduction goals.

We are also investing in energy efficiency.

We have legislated, for the first time in the history of our province, an agency dedicated to finding and delivering energy efficiency as well as small- and community-scale renewable projects.

The agency will empower action by individual citizens, small business and communities, and support the implementation of community energy plans.

We are looking at all sectors of our economy, and all sources of emissions.

And we are working together with the people of our province to find new ways to reduce our emissions while supporting and diversifying our economy.

Conclusion

Leadership on climate change is one of the best things that we can do to secure a healthy and prosperous future for our province. But it’s not just the smart thing to do – it’s the right thing to do.

My province is home to nearly 11 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves. The oil sands are the third largest oil deposit on earth. We are an energy powerhouse.

But we are also global citizens, and we recognize our responsibility to be active partners in the fight against climate change. We are demonstrating we will do our fair share.

The fact is – energy producers can be environmental leaders. And our energy industry not only accepts this reality – they are actively supporting our Climate Leadership Plan.

We know that we need to take action – and we are working together to build a greener, cleaner and more diverse future for our energy economy.

Our province’s emissions were forecast to continue to grow unconstrained for decades to come. Taken together, the actions in our plan will see our emissions peak in the next 5 years and start to decline after that, even as our economy continues to grow.

Our Climate Leadership Plan has received wide support, from industry leaders to world leaders at the COP 21 conference in Paris.

And we will continue to lead the way on climate change policy, while providing responsibly-produced energy to markets around the world.

With Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan, we are not only ensuring the future of our energy economy, we are also ensuring that Alberta continues to be one of the best places in the world to live, work and do business by fostering a sustainable and responsible energy economy, reducing pollution, and protecting our natural environment and way of life.

Thank you for this opportunity to share Alberta’s Climate Leadership journey with you.

I am looking forward to what is sure to be a lively and engaging discussion. Thank you.