Alberta Industry Fails to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Pollution

Government's approach delivers under half the targeted reductions

May 2, 2008
Media Release

On April 30 the Government of Alberta announced the results of the first year of its targets to reduce industrial greenhouse gas "intensity." The preliminary results indicate that only about half (2.6 million tonnes) of the mandatory reductions were actually achieved. The other half (approximately 2.7 million tonnes) of the reductions did not actually occur. Instead, industry paid $15 per tonne (approximately $40 million in total) into the government's Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund.

"The government is misleading Albertans with false accounting when it claims success in achieving its 12 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas intensity," said Dan Woynillowicz, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Pembina Institute. "The majority of polluters bought their way out by paying into the government's fund. But it's unlikely that the fund will be used to finance an equivalent amount of reductions."

"The fund lets emitters off the hook at a very low price," added Nashina Shariff of the Toxics Watch Society of Alberta. "A levy of $15 a tonne is way below the carbon prices needed to drive deep reductions in emissions."

The Pembina Institute and the Toxics Watch Society have shown that governments need to set a price for greenhouse gas pollution, either through a carbon tax or a true cap and trade emissions trading system. The price must be set no lower than $30 per tonne now and rising to at least $75 a tonne by 2020 to achieve the reductions needed to ward off dangerous climate change.

The government's release notes that companies reduced emissions by approximately 2.6 million tonnes through improvements in energy efficiency and the purchase of Alberta-based offsets, largely from the agricultural sector. However, there is a troubling lack of transparency on the split between on-site intensity reductions and the purchase of offsets, or on the types of reductions achieved.

Reductions in greenhouse gas "intensity" do not deliver reductions in actual emissions if industrial production is rising rapidly, as is the case in the oilsands sector. In its recent climate change plan, the government acknowledged that it expects Alberta's total greenhouse gas pollution to continue to increase until 2020.

"We knew that total greenhouse gas pollution would increase under this system, but it is increasing even more than it should because of the loophole that allows companies to pay into the fund," said Woynillowicz. "The government is failing to fulfill Albertans' expectations for action on climate change."

In a March 2008 poll by Leger Marketing it was found that 57 per cent of Albertans didn't believe the government was doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Sixty-two per cent felt the government should limit the overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by oilsands, even if it meant some projects would be delayed or cancelled.

- 30 -

For more information, please contact:

Dan Woynillowicz
Senior Policy Analyst, Alberta Energy Solutions
The Pembina Institute
Ph: 403-538-7782
Cell: 403-888-6272

Nashina Shariff
The Toxics Watch Society of Alberta
Cell: 780-915-8946

The Pembina Institute and Toxic Watch Society's analysis and recommendations regarding the Government of Alberta's implementation of the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund can be downloaded here.

The Government of Alberta's media release, "Alberta industries comply with pivotal climate change legislation," can be found here.

Get our Pembina Perspectives

Pembina Perspectives provides provides thoughtful, evidence-based research and analysis to support action on climate — in your inbox every two weeks.

We endeavour to protect your confidentiality; read our full privacy policy.