The Government of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan makes Alberta a climate policy leader virtually overnight – both in Canada and globally.

By now, the architecture of the plan is well-known. It includes:

• an economywide price of $30/ tonne on GHG emissions (covering 78-90 per cent of Alberta’s economy);
• an expedited phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation by 2030, to be replace by natural gas and renewables;
• increased the stringency (from 12 per cent -20 per cent) and price ($20/tonne in 2017, escalating to $30/tonne in 2018) on large final emitters – but largely kept the existing system in place; and
• a cap of 100 megatonnes on GHG emissions from oil sands operations.

Today, as Albertans ask themselves what the plan means for them, two broader questions emerge: (1) how will the plan impact Alberta’s economy? and (2) will the plan result in public support for oil sands development and pipeline construction?

A few things are clear as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with provincial premiers for the first time today. Premier Rachel Notley needs a political win – she needs to emerge from the meeting with support from Trudeau and provincial leaders for oil sands development and pipeline construction. Alberta has put in place an ambitious climate strategy at a time of great economic uncertainty. It is time for Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia to show they are team players.

There should also now be no doubt that Rachel Notley has guts.

Since taking power in May, her government has embarked on an aggressive remaking of Alberta’s economy. One of her government’s first orders of business was to increase the corporate income tax rate from 10 per cent to 12 per cent, while doing away with a uniform 10 per cent personal income tax rate.

Now, the NDP has introduced an ambitious climate policy that covers 78 – 90 per cent of the economy. Everyone who emits carbon will pay, yet only the lowest 60 per cent of earners will get a rebate. This kind of rapid change is not for the meek.

Despite some trepidation about the pace of change, Albertans should be pleased that Notley has guts. She will need those guts as she seeks to deliver a win for Alberta on the national and international stage. Success there will mean translating climate action into public support for oil sands and pipelines to get oil to new markets.

If premiers Couillard, Wynne and Clark – all high profile pipeline detractors – prove not to be team players, Notley may have to take the gloves off. Regardless, she is going to have to muster those guts again in Paris to defend Alberta’s interests.        

— Trevor McLeod is Director of the Centre for Natural Resources Policy