Clark applauds Alberta carbon tax plan

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley unveils tax on consumer fuels, cap and trade system for industry, allows oil sands to grow

Premier Christy Clark says she is pleased to see Alberta following B.C.’s lead in imposing a carbon tax on fuels, but there major differences in the two provincial plans.

Clark spoke to reporters at a premiers’ meeting in Ottawa on Monday, where Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley described the plan to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet.

“It’s $30 a tonne, it’s very broad, and our economy is continuing to grow,” Clark said of B.C.’s seven-year-old carbon tax. “So I think Alberta following British Columbia on that really helps us make the case that Canadians do care about climate change. We do care about protecting our environment.”

Alberta’s carbon tax is to reach $30 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2018, and drivers and natural gas users will feel it starting next year. But unlike in B.C., where carbon tax on gasoline, natural gas and other fuels is automatically returned through reductions in personal and business income tax, Notley’s government plans to spend much of the money.

The $3 billion a year Alberta expects to collect by 2018 goes to consumer rebates for low and middle income households, transition payments to workers and communities and “to provide incremental fiscal capacity for other government priorities including infrastructure,” the Alberta government report says.

And unlike B.C. where large industrial emitters are exempt on all but their fuel use, Alberta plans to provide “emissions rights” to operations with 100,000 tonnes or more of annual emissions, and also allowing them to buy carbon offsets and purchase rights granted to another company.

The Alberta plan calls for coal-fired power plants to be phased out by 2030, in a province where one quarter of emissions come from electricity generation, rivalling oil sands production.

A hard cap on Alberta oil sands emissions is set at 100 megatonnes per year. Current operations generate 70 megatonnes, leaving room for expansion until 2030. Suncor and other oil sands producers endorsed the new restrictions.