Alberta Needs Climate Change Criteria: AG

Media Appearances, Climate, Frontier Centre

The Alberta government has established targets for carbon dioxide emissions intensity and absolute reduction but has not yet corroborated that the actions will result in Alberta meeting its targets, the province’s auditor general said in a report Thursday.

The province made climate change commitments in Albertans and Climate Change: Taking Action, its 2002 climate change plan and in Alberta’s 2008 Climate Change Strategy (which replaced the 2002 plan).

To meet these targets, the government now needs to establish criteria for deciding specific actions, develop a master implementation plan, improve the processes for monitoring climate change results and ensure reported data is relevant and reliable, Auditor General Fred Dunn said in the report.

For each major action in the 2008 Climate Change Strategy, the Ministry of Environment should evaluate how the actions will advance Alberta’s climate change goals.

The emissions reduction actions in the 2008 strategy are grouped under three focus areas: conservation and energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage and greening energy production.

But the ministry has not yet developed the overall criteria to select actions to meet the target reductions for each focus area, the auditor found. The ministry, the report argues, has not determined an impact on gross domestic product or done an analysis to ensure the actions selected are the most cost-effective ones or result in the fewest negative impacts.

The 2008 strategy acknowledges that further decisions need to be made and implementation plans should be developed, including a plan to develop adaptation strategies, the report said.

However, except for carbon capture and storage (CCS), no document states when research needs to be completed and choices have to be made, the report noted. The focus areas need to be converted into a master implementation plan with deadlines and monitoring before “Albertans can have confidence that Alberta will achieve the climate change goals and targets cost-effectively.”

To date, the auditor general has identified planned provincial spending for climate change costing about $4.7 billion. These actions are administered by eight ministries. The facts about climate change document reported some of the costs of programs that had been announced up to 2007, although the report said there is no overall reporting to allow Albertans to know how much is being spent to meet climate-change goals.

Alberta’s climate change plan targets a 200 megatonne reduction (from business as usual forecasts) in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or 14% below actual 2005 levels. The province has said CCS will account for 70% of the total.

Also, industrial emitters in Alberta – facilities emitting more than 100,000 tonnes of GHGs a year – were required to reduce their emissions intensity by 12% by March 31 this year.

Earlier this year, the government said it would ante up $2 billion for three to five large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects that it says will store up to five million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO[2]) by 2015. A second $2 billion fund will propel energy-saving public transit in Alberta.

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a Winnipeg-based think tank, called on the Alberta government to revisit its plans to bury carbon emissions, in light of the auditor general’s report.

“In an uncertain economic climate it would be useful for the Alberta government to slow down and reconsider plans to spend this much money, especially when other priorities exist,” Mark Milke, director of research, said.