Review of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan and carbon levy; updates on renewables and methane regulations

env defence carbon-pricing-alberta-fbEnvironmental Defence released a report in December 2018, Carbon Pricing in Alberta: A review of its success and impacts  . According to the report, Alberta’s carbon levy, introduced in 2017 as part of the broader Climate Leadership Plan, has had no detrimental effect on the economy, and in fact, all key economic indicators (weekly consumer spending, consumer price index,and gross domestic product) improved in 2017. The report also documents how the carbon levy revenues have been invested: for example, over $1 billion used to fund consumer rebates and popular energy efficiency initiatives in 2017; support for Indigenous communities, including employment programs; a 500% growth in solar installations; funding for an expansion of light rail transit systems in Calgary and Edmonton; and prevention of an estimated 20,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. The conclusion: the Climate Leadership Plan and its carbon levy is off to a good start, but improvement is needed on promised methane reduction regulations , and the regulations to enforce the legislated cap on oil sands emissions need to be released.

Methane Regulations:    The Alberta Environmental Law Centre published a report in 2017 evaluating the province’s methane emissions regulations. On December 13, the government released new, final regulations governing methane. On December 19, the Alberta Environmental Law Centre published a summary of the new Regulations here  

Since the Environmental Defence study, on December 17, the government announced  agreement on five new wind projects funded by Carbon Leadership revenues, through the  Renewable Electricity Program. Three of the five projects are private-sector partnerships with First Nations, and include a minimum 25 per cent Indigenous equity component to stimulate jobs, skills training and other  economic benefits. The government claims that all five projects will generate 1000 jobs.

On  December 19 the government also  announced   new funding of  $50 million from Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan for the existing  Sector-specific Industrial Energy Efficiency Program , to support technology improvements in the  trade-exposed industries of pulp and paper, chemical, fertilizer, minerals and metals facilities.

Balanced against this, a December 31 government press release summarized how its “Made in Alberta ” policies have supported the oil and gas industry: including doubling of support for petrochemical upgrading to $2.1 billion; creation of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) investment team to work directly with industry to expedite fossil fuel projects; political fights for new pipelines (claiming that “Premier Notley’s advocacy was instrumental in the federal government’s decision to purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline”), and the ubiquitous Keep Canada Working  advertisements promoting the keepcanada workingbenefits of the Trans Mountain pipeline . The press release also references the November announcement that the province will buy rail cars  to ship oil in the medium term,  and the December 11 press release announcing that the province is  exploring  private-sector interest in building a new oil refinery .

Clean Energy Advances in the U.S. with Landmark Clean Power Plan

On August 3, President Obama released the finalized Clean Power Plan , which goes even further than the draft version in requiring the states to source 28 percent of their power from renewables by 2030. The U.S. Congressional Research Service published EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Highlights of the Final Rule August 14, 2015  to summarize the document and highlight the differences from the Proposed Rules. The National Resources Defense Council also released an Issue Brief, Understanding the Clean Power Plan  , and stated “The plan represents the most important step the United States can take right now to combat climate change and help spur climate action around the globe.” Labor Network for Sustainability provides a union view in The EPA Clean Power Plan, Jobs and Labor  , and The EPA’s Clean Power Plan: How Unions and Allies can protect affected workers  , both of which discuss the role labor unions can play in lobbying for transition funds and programs for workers in the fossil fuel industry. At the federal level, LNS envisions federal Just Transition programs, modeled after the Base Realignment and Closing Commission (BRAC) initiatives operated by the Department of National Defense when military bases were closed.   At the state level, the report urges unions to build alliances among environmentalists, labor, and environmental justice advocates to lobby for Clean Power Plans which incorporate climate justice objectives.

See also: “The Very Real Impact of the Clean Power Plan” (Aug. 14)    in Corporate Knights magazine, which refutes the negative reaction by Michael Grunwald of Politico , and concludes that “… to dismiss it as insignificant ignores the data and the political context. As the country sees the health and economic benefits of an accelerating movement toward renewable energy, we can expect greater openness to more aggressive actions. We are engaged in a process.” That’s clear from the timeline published by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.

The WCR published an earlier summary of studies of the employment impacts of the CPP, including the widely cited report by Josh Bivens.

Further, the Obama administration announced initiatives at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas on August 24.  Highlights: an additional $1 billion in loan guarantee authority for distributed energy projects using innovative technology, such as rooftop solar and methane capture for oil and gas wells; expansion of the residential clean energy financing program, which makes loans to homeowners who want to purchase home energy improvements; and $24 million to 11 solar research projects.

U.S. Proposals to Encourage Large-scale Wind Power

The costs and benefits of developing a commercial-scale offshore wind industry in the United States are explored in a report released on February 28. Policy recommendations are: accelerate the existing “Smart from the Start” program, enact the proposed Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act; establish a carbon tax, and roll back fossil fuel subsidies. Making the Economic Case for Offshore Wind was commissioned by the Center for American Progress, the Clean Energy States Alliance, the Sierra Club, and the U.S. Offshore Wind Collaborative, and conducted by the Brattle Group, a consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Read it at:  http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/report/2013/02/28/54988/making-the-economic-case-for-offshore-wind/