CALGARY – Some environmental groups panned the energy strategy Canada’s premiers signed on Friday, but at least one saw some reason for optimism.
Dale Marshall of Environmental Defence was disappointed in the document’s vague language around climate change and said it’s likely to encourage more of the status quo.
“This energy strategy could have had a much more ambitious framework that would have allowed most provinces, if not all provinces, to move forward with greater commitments,” he said.
“And we’re still at the point where generally the strategy does not acknowledge that there is a trade-off between building tarsands projects, building pipelines and addressing climate change.”
The Council of Canadians’ Andrea Harden-Donahue said while mention of renewable energy and efficiency were welcome, the agreement “falls short.”
“The strategy allows for more oil pipelines. Current proposals on the table threaten to allow enough tarsands expansion to make meaningful climate pollution cuts nearly impossible.”
Erin Flanagan, an oilsands analyst with the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank, had a more positive take.
The mention of carbon pricing and “market-based” mechanisms to deal with emissions was “a step in the right direction,” as not all provinces have adopted those policies.
Flanagan said she was also pleased to see the premiers pushing for a greater voice in international climate negotiations, like the UN talks coming up later this year in Paris.
Still, Flanagan cautioned that “the jury’s out” as to whether any tangible progress may come from the strategy.
“My instinct is that much of the work is yet to come and so we’ll see over the next year whether or not this strategy is actually going to be successful,” she said.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was a fan of the strategy, which stresses the importance of energy exports, a more streamlined regulatory process and the role technology can play in reducing emissions.
“Ultimately this is a document that is going to enable us as a country to move important projects forward,” said association president Tim McMillan.
The document makes few specific mentions of pipelines and oil and gas.
Alan Ross, a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais who works on behalf of energy clients, said that makes sense, as the strategy is meant to encompass all energy types, whether that be oilsands or run-of-river hydro.
“I think that it presents an elegant opportunity to try to develop our energy infrastructure broadly,” said Ross, who worked on an earlier iteration of the strategy spearheaded by former Alberta premier Alison Redford when he was the provincial envoy in Ottawa.