Conference close: Keynote: Andrew Leach, U Alberta, Calgary, Race4Good presentations
Keynote: The road to (and from) the world's most ambitious climate policy announcement
On November 22nd, 2015, Alberta's Premier Rachel Notley made what has to be considered the world's most ambitious climate policy announcement. Flanked by representatives from the country's most prominent environmental organizations and representatives of some of Canada's larges oil sands companies, along with representatives of First Nations and trade unions, the consensus seen on the stage was a huge accomplishment in and of itself. The announcement made that consensus even more remarkable. Alberta, having already increased its industrial carbon price to $30/tonne in June of 2015, would now broaden that price to cover almost all emissions in the economy through a consumer carbon tax, would commit to a phase out of coal-fired power by 2030, reduce methane emissions from gas production by 45%, create an energy efficiency agency, and commit to increasing renewable power to 30% of provincial generation by 2030. The plan would also cap oil sands emissions, Canada's fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases.
In the six months preceding that announcement, I had the pleasure of chairing Premier Notley's climate policy panel and, along with panel colleagues and a great public service team, we built most of what was announced that day. In the 4 years that followed, I've answered a lot of questions, given a lot of talks, and watched as the policy we'd built became the basis for federal policy in Canada but also slowly came unraveled at home in Alberta. There were tremendous successes, of course: a big drop in emissions from coal power and the procurement of the lowest-cost renewable power ever seen in Canada. However, the government struggled under the sheer size of the policy, and the political challenge of implementing aggressive policy in a downturn, and eventually the Government of Premier Notley lost their bid for re-election in May of 2019.
Since the election, Alberta's new Premier Jason Kenney has eliminated the consumer carbon tax, and has announced his intentions to weaken the industrial carbon price as well as walking away from many of the other commitments in the November, 2015 announcement. His rise to power, and the opposition to carbon pricing and other policies which helped him get there, provide a great opportunity for reflection on the political and economic feasibility of stringent carbon policies.
This lecture will address what we did and, more importantly, what we would have done differently knowing then what we know now.