Canadian province to double carbon tax

The newly-elected liberal government of Alberta, Canada, announced Thursday that it will double the province’s carbon tax by 2017. 

Regulators will also ask big industrial facilities to cut their emissions intensity by 12 percent next year and up to 20 percent by 2017, the Calgary Herald reported on Thursday. The move is designed to encourage oil sands operators and power plants to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

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“If Alberta wants better access to world markets, then we’re going to need to do our part to address one of the world’s biggest problems, which is climate change,” Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said.

Alberta voters elected a liberal New Democratic Party government in May, ending the right-leaning Progressive Conservative Party’s more than four-decade rule. The new government promised to be less friendly to the province’s sizable oil drilling industry and more focused on environmental issues. 

Alberta emitted 267 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2013, and that figure is expected to grow to 287 million metric tons by 2020. The province currently charges a $15 per metric ton levy, a figure that will rise to $20 next year and $30 in 2017. 

New Premier Rachel Notley has promised to look for ways to beef up Alberta’s environment policies, including stronger regulations, a new focus on renewable energy, phasing out coal-fired power and a review of its climate change policies ahead of an international climate conference this winter.

The Canadian government has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2030. So far, officials have said they will not regulate emissions from its oil sands industry.

Green groups welcomed the Alberta government’s move on Thursday but said more still needs to be done.   

“This is a good first step,” said Anthony Swift, National Resources Defense Council’s Canada project director. 

“But given Alberta’s track record, the province has a long way to go to helping Canada meet its international climate commitment. First and foremost, Alberta should rein in tar sands development, and its carbon-intensive emissions, in order for Canada to demonstrate it is serious about fighting climate change.”