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Alberta’s climate-change initiatives


Tax on gas or vehicle registration may be part of Alberta’s climate-change initiatives

Darcy Henton, Calgary Herald
More from Darcy Henton, Calgary Herald

Alberta’s environment minister is not ruling out a carbon tax as the province grapples with the impact of vehicle emissions on climate change and air quality.

Shannon Phillips says the province’s new climate change panel headed by Andrew Leach will be “taking a hard look” at initiatives in other jurisdictions to see whether “incentives and disincentives” should be used to help reduce the impact of vehicle emissions on the environment.

Her ministry’s climate leadership discussion document outlines various approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation, including a carbon tax on fuel or on vehicle registration, based on vehicle size, fuel efficiency or mileage.

“The panel will have a look at those initiatives and assess whether they make sense for Alberta,” Phillips said in an interview last week.

“We’re really cognizant of the hit to the pocketbook a number of these could involve for Albertans and that’s why the panel is looking at all the best practices. We’ll make the final determination based on economic conditions and the kind of things Albertans tell us they have an appetite for.”

Other options include setting renewable fuel standards and higher emission standards for cars and trucks. The discussion paper also mentions various policy approaches to invest in or subsidize green transportation, including public transit, alternate vehicles like electric or natural-gas powered cars, and alternate fuel generation.

Alberta currently has a 13-cent per litre tax on all grades of gasoline and a requirement that fuel producers blend five per cent renewable alcohol in gas and two per cent in diesel.

The paper says transportation was responsible for 11 per cent, or 30 megatonnes, of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2013.

Vehicle emissions, along with emissions from coal-fired power plants and oil and gas development, are being blamed for poor air quality in central Alberta and concerns about air quality in most of the province.

Alberta has nearly five million registered vehicles — a 50 per cent increase since 2004.

The Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA), a non-profit association made up of government, industry and non-government representatives, has been examining vehicle emissions since 1996, said executive director Keith Denman.

Since 1998, CASA has organized five major projects to reduce vehicle emissions.

“We’re certainly willing to be involved in other aspects of managing the emissions or developing recommendations for the minister to help her in managing the emissions, but today I can’t tell you what that will be,” Denman said.

Alberta has a long history of working co-operatively on these kinds of issues through consensus-guided CASA and other groups, he said.

“When we have an issue that needs to be solved … Alberta has a surprisingly good history on coming to agreement on the course of action,” he said.

“I don’t have any reason to doubt that will occur here. It’s hard negotiating. It’s not easy. But people actually work together quite well on this stuff, despite what you might think from some of the public pronouncements.”

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