Alberta reports progress under Climate Leadership Plan, increases carbon levy

Climate Leadership Plan Progress Report 2016 – 2017 ,  released in December 2017, summarizes and measures the outcomes for the programs initiated under the Climate Leadership Plan .  The report  includes a section on Skills and Employment, providing very basic measures of  “Green Skills Demand” and “Jobs Supported”.   Green Skills Demand is measured as the percentage of job postings categorized as green, and the results show an increase from 2014 to 2016, though green job postings have not yet recovered to 2014 levels.  The  Jobs Supported section estimates include total direct, indirect and induced jobs created, calculated by Statistics Canada and using an input-output (IO) model.  It concludes that, in 2016-17, $311 million was invested back into the economy in programs and policies under the Climate Leadership Plan, which  supported approximately  2700 jobs.

Also, effective January 1, 2018, Alberta’s carbon levy increased from $20 per ton to $30 per ton.  The government press release states that 60 per cent of households are expected to receive a full or partial carbon levy rebate in 2018, ranging from approximately $300 (tax-free) for a  single adult earning up to $47,500 per year to $540 for  a couple with two children earning up to $95,000 per year .    The Pembina Institute has produced an Infographic and FAQ’s “What you need to know about Alberta’s Carbon Levy” .

The government also released a new Carbon Competitiveness Incentive Regulation (CCIR) in December 2017, designed to help trade-exposed industries.  From the  press release on December 6:  “The CCIRs are the product of extensive consultation with industry and will be phased in over three years. Companies will have further incentives to invest in innovation and technology to create jobs and reduce emissions through a $1.4-billion innovation package released earlier this week, which includes $440 million for oil sands innovation alone.”  Although the oil sands industry receives the lion’s share of the Energy Innovation Fund, described here   and here , the Fund also includes incentives for bioenergy producers, cross-sector green loan guarantees of $400 million, and funding for energy efficiency upgrades for large agricultural and manufacturing operations, institutions, commercial facilities and not-for-profit organizations.   The Pembina Institute explains the new regulations in a detailed technical report, Understanding the Pros and Cons of Alberta’s new industrial carbon pricing rules , released on December 20.

Low Carbon Fuel Standards vs. Renewable Fuel Standards

A new report from Smart Prosperity (formerly Sustainable Prosperity) contrasts the advantages and features of a Renewable Fuel Standard –  in force federally and in five provinces – with a Low Carbon Fuel Standard, in force in Canada only in British Columbia . The discussion is timely, given that the federal government and the province of Ontario are both considering Low Carbon Fuel Standard policies. In “ How a Low Carbon Fuel Standard could reduce your GHG footprint without you even noticing”,  Smart Prosperity answers “what it is” and “what it does” questions;  its Policy Brief   discusses the complex questions of policy design, “ particularly around regional impacts, equity concerns, cost effectiveness, and innovation impacts”.  Read also the Ontario Discussion paper: Developing a modern renewal fuel standard for gasoline in Ontario   . The federal government posted a  clean fuel standard Backgrounder  about its goals (November 2016), which include using life cycle analysis of fuel production, and  extending coverage beyond transportation fuels.  Other jurisdictions which use a LCFS include California, Oregon,  and the state of Washington.

UPDATE:  On February 23, Friends of the Earth released a discussion paper, Working Towards A Clean Fuel Strategy for Canada:Key QuestionsThe subtitle says a lot:  How to make a Canadian Clean Fuel Strategy more than a cosmetic exercise to sanitize the image of the oil industry. Noting that  Environment and Climate Change Canada has provided only vague information so far in its consideration of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard,  Friends of the Earth states its concern that an inadequate policy could greenwash the use of fossil fuels and thus prolong their use ,  rather than supporting a just transition off fossil fuels and  stimulating the development of alternative fuels.   The discussion paper is a thorough  review of past experience with biofuel and ethanol policies .

Progress in reducing Transportation emissions: Electric Busses and Biofuel

Electric car London 2013While the world gawked and lined up to buy the new Tesla Model 3 electric car in March,  a report from Yale 360 describes the encouraging progress toward electric heavy duty vehicles.   “As Electric Cars Stall, A Move To Greener Trucks and Buses” (March 24) suggests that the industrial sector may be quicker than individual consumers to pay for expensive new technologies because costs can be amortized and benefits such as fuel savings will multiply across equipment fleets.  As proof, the article cites growth of electric bus fleets in the U.S. and Europe, and states that China, the world leader in manufacture and export of electric buses, already has  80,000 electric buses on the road ; Shanghai has announced plans to add 1,400 electric buses a year .  In Canada, electric vehicles continue to attract incentives , for example with Ontario’s new program announced in February .

To measure how carbon pollution is improving under renewable fuel standards, Clean Energy Canada, Navius Research and Simon Fraser have produced a new report,  Biofuels in Canada: Tracking progress in Tackling Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transportation Fuels . The analysis concludes that government policy is clearly driving biofuel adoption:  renewable fuel standards and low-carbon fuel standards have reduced annual carbon pollution in 2014 by 4.3 megatonnes CO2eq, (equivalent to taking one million cars off the road), and biofuel use has increased to 3.9 million m3, (equivalent to 5% of all gasoline and diesel use in Canada). However, the report calls for additional government policies in the future.  Funding for the report was provided by Advanced Biofuels Canada; Clean Energy Canada maintained full control over research, analysis and editorial content.

EU Proposes New Emissions Targets for 2030, Weak Regulation of Fracking, and No Extension to the European Fuel Quality Directive

After hard-fought negotiations, the members of the European Union finally agreed on January 22 to a compromise Framework proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, and a goal of producing 27% of all energy from renewable sources by 2030. The European carbon emissions trading system (EUTS) will be reformed, and the goal of improving energy efficiency by 25% by 2030 will be an “indicative target”, not legally binding. Fracking will also be governed by non-binding recommendations rather than regulation. Most significantly for Canada, the Fuel Quality Directive will not be renewed after its expiry in 2020 – a move away from the support of biofuels, and which might allow for Alberta oil to enter the European fuel supply chain. The Canadian government has lobbied actively for such a change.  

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See “EU May Scrap Green Fuel Law in Boon for Tar Sands Industry” at Inside Climate News http://insideclimatenews.org/content/eu-may-scrap-green-fuel-law-boon-tar-sands-industry, and for background, the Natural Resources Defense Council blog, Canadian Tar Sands Exports to Europe could Grow from a Trickle to a Flood Undermining Europe’s Climate Goals (Jan. 2014) at: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/aswift/canadian_tar_sands_exports_to.html

The European Council will consider the framework proposals at its spring meeting in March.

From the EU Commissioner on Climate Action: “…The details of the framework will now have to be agreed, but the direction for Europe has been set. If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape.” Read the analysis from The Guardian (U.K.)(Jan.22) at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/22/eu-carbon-emissions-climate-deal-2030 and the New York Times (Jan. 22) at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/business/international/european-union-lowers-ambitions-on-renewable-energy.html?hp. The press release, with links to official documents, is at the European Commission website at: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-54_en.htm.

Environmental groups disagree with the positive spin: according to the Friends of the Earth Europe, the negotiators “…seem to have fallen for the old-think industry spin that there must be a trade-off between climate action and economic recovery. This position completely ignores the huge financial cost of dealing with the impacts of climate change and the €500 billion the EU is spending every year on oil and gas imports”. (at: https://www.foeeurope.org/2030_climate_energy_plan_220114). About fracking, the FOE had this to say: “… attempts to regulate the fracking industry have been undermined by heavy corporate lobbying and pressure from certain member states intent on fracking their lands.” … “With the heavy support from José Manuel Barroso, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Romania have all played a leading role in undermining shale gas legislation, with allies Hungary, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia.” See https://www.foeeurope.org/shale_gas_framework_220114. An article in The Guardian (Jan. 14) offers a detailed analysis of the significant role played by the U.K. to weaken the fracking regulations (see at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/14/uk-defeats-european-bid-fracking-regulations).

Global Assessment of the Impacts of Biofuels

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N. released “a comprehensive study that attempted to integrate into a single report the major issues related to biofuel and related feedstock sustainability.” The report focuses on the environmental issues of first and second-generation biofuels, with a brief consideration of landowner rights and the labour/employment effects. It provides case studies of national sustainability initiatives from nine countries: Canada, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, U.S., U.K., E.U and Germany, and The Netherlands. The final chapter is a critical evaluation of biofuel certification schemes and lessons for sustainability, including impacts on agriculture and forestry. See Biofuels And The Sustainability Challenge: A Global Assessment of Sustainability Issues, Trends and Policies for Biofuels and Related Feedstock at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/017/i3126e/i3126e.pdf