In a monumental stride towards climate change mitigation and energy reform, Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, and Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston have announced the signing of a joint policy statement on decarbonizing Canada's electricity system. The agreement targets the phasing out of coal-fired electricity by 2030 and the attainment of net-zero electricity by 2035. It includes distinct initiatives for small modular reactors in New Brunswick and offshore wind in Nova Scotia.
Contrasting Stances on Clean Energy Policies
This collective initiative stands in stark contrast to the stance of Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who recently expressed her intentions to challenge the federal government's proposed clean electricity regulations. She deems these regulations, which fall under the contentious Alberta Sovereignty Act, as 'absurd, illogical, unscientific, and unconstitutional'. Smith's primary concerns revolve around the potential ramifications of these regulations, including sky-high bills, power blackouts, and even prison sentences for executives of non-compliant power companies.
While several Alberta-based scholars recognize the province's legitimate apprehensions regarding the pace and the prescriptive nature of the regulations, others dismiss Smith's campaign as an act of fearmongering. The federal and Alberta governments had earlier agreed to establish a working group to address joint policy priorities, including clean electricity regulations.
Climate Change: An Imminent Threat
The urgency to tackle climate change is further underlined by recent occurrences, such as a significant reduction in Canada's oil and gas extraction due to wildfires in Alberta. This incident highlights the direct and immediate impact of environmental challenges. The federal government's critics at the provincial level could leverage the United Nations climate summit, COP28, to shed light on these internal tensions. This conference, featuring the first-ever global stocktake assessing the world's commitments under the Paris Agreement, calls for a 43 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and a 60 percent cut by 2035 from 2019 levels.
Canada's Path Towards Carbon Neutrality
Simultaneously, Pathways Alliance, backed by Canada's six largest oil sands companies, is working on one of the world's largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) networks. This project could play a pivotal role in advancing Alberta and Canada's net-zero ambitions. This proposed CCS network could potentially reduce net CO2 emissions from oil sands operations by about 10 to 12 million tonnes annually by 2030 and as much as 40 million tonnes per year by 2050. The first phase of the proposed Pathways Alliance plan calls for a hefty investment of over $24 billion before 2030.