Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau waded into the heart of Alberta’s oilpatch to trot out his party’s new plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the country, but let the provinces create their own policies.
Speaking to a sold-out crowd at the Calgary Petroleum Club, Trudeau said he would take a medicare-style approach to fight climate change by working with the provinces to develop a national framework to achieve those goals within 90 days of December’s United Nations climate change conference in Paris.
“I’m the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, my last name is Trudeau and I’m standing here at the Petroleum Club in Calgary,” he told the mostly business and political audience.
“I understand how energy issues can divide the country, but I also know that strong leadership can see us through the challenges we face.”
Trudeau said the framework would build on carbon pricing models in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and, soon, Ontario.
If elected, his plan would start with a First Ministers’ meeting immediately after the federal election in October and would set national emissions-reduction targets — and include targeted federal funding.
Although Trudeau didn’t suggest raising Alberta’s existing carbon levy of $15 a tonne on heavy industrial emitters, Premier Jim Prentice took a strong stance Friday about the province setting its own standards.
“We’ll fight to keep Alberta competitive,” said Prentice during an afternoon conference call from New York. “It’s all well and good for people to talk about increasing the carbon levy from $15 per tonne, but understand that the people we compete with in the energy industry attach a zero price to their carbon.
“I am certainly not going to stand back idly while Alberta’s competitiveness is challenged by anyone.”
Alberta’s own climate plan has been assailed as ineffective, with the province unable to reach its own internal targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Last year, the province’s auditor general released a damning report suggesting there’s no indication the strategy has been effective due to a lack of monitoring.
The province is in the midst of working on an updated climate change strategy. Prentice suggested Alberta needs to have flexibility to design its own policies on carbon pricing.
“We’re always happy to work together with others, but I think Alberta has exercised its jurisdiction over the environment responsibly,” he added.
The Trudeau announcement comes as both federal and provincial governments are grappling with falling energy prices, but rising greenhouse gas emissions from the oilpatch.
In December, a federal Environment Canada report indicated that even if the economy slows and energy prices droop, Canada would still fail to reduce greenhouse gases 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, as it committed to do under the Copenhagen Accord.
Alberta has the largest emissions of any province, totalling 249 megatonnes in 2012, up from 232 Mt in 2005.
Calgary Centre-North Conservative MP Michelle Rempel criticized the lack of financial details in Trudeau’s proposal and said the federal government has been taking a co-ordinated approach to addressing climate change.
“We have to work with industry to achieve meaningful targets and also to ensure that we’re not putting undue pressure on industry when it’s a key cornerstone of our economy,” said the federal cabinet minister. “It’s that balance we’ve been trying to achieve.”
Environmental groups, however, said the federal government needs to set a national price on carbon, and not simply rely on the provinces to create their own strategy.
“Leaving it to the provinces to devise their own plans could be problematic,” Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute, said in a statement. “Important questions remain, such as what would happen if provinces disagreed over national standards set using the proposed approach.
“It would be simpler for the federal government to set a national price on carbon, using a system such as cap-and-trade or a national carbon tax.”
 Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, agreed that a federal framework doesn’t go far enough and said Trudeau’s statements are contradictory.
“His emphasis on getting resources to market is at odds with his commitment to reduce carbon pollution,” Gray said.
Federal opposition parties were also quick to criticize Trudeau’s plan as lacking substance.
“This speech was nothing but platitudes and vague promises,” said New Democrat environment critic Megan Leslie. “His speech showed his lack of experience and lack of understanding about the need for real and urgent action on climate change.”
With files from The Canadian Press
http://calgaryherald.com/news/politics/trudeau-vows-to-set-nation-carbon…