Canada’s Tar Sands Oil Capital Will Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Alberta plans to impose an economy-wide carbon tax.
Canadian oil fields. (Photo: Getty Images)
Nov 22, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

The leader of Alberta, Canada, announced a plan on Sunday to ease the province’s reliance on the carbon-intensive tar sands oil industry by imposing a tax on greenhouse gas emissions.

“Responding to climate change is about doing what’s right for future generations of Albertans—protecting our jobs, health, and the environment,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said in a statement. “It will help us access new markets for our energy products and diversify our economy with renewable energy and energy efficiency technology.”

Notley’s left-leaning New Democratic Party replaced 44 years of conservative rule in Alberta in May when it won control of the province’s legislative assembly.

If the plan is approved, the province of Alberta will impose a tax of $20 per ton on carbon-dioxide emissions beginning in 2017; it will increase to $30 in 2018. Currently, only large industries pay a tax for carbon emissions. The new plan will cost consumers an average of $320 a year to heat their homes, according to CBC News. Gasoline prices will also increase by 4.7 cents per gallon.

That tax will bring in an estimated $3 billion in revenue annually for the province.

The initiative would lower methane emissions 45 percent from 2014 levels by 2025 and phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030. Renewable energy sources, primarily wind, would make up 30 percent of electricity production by 2030.

“Alberta is showing leadership on one of the world’s biggest problems, and doing our part,” said Notley, adding that the province’s reputation for not aggressively tackling climate change played a role in President Barack Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Greenpeace Canada called the government’s plan an “historic moment for climate activism” but noted that more work needed to be done to curb climate change.

The plan would cap Alberta’s oil sand industries carbon emissions at 100 megatons annually. That still gives the controversial industry—the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions—room to grow, as it emits 70 megatons each year.