April 14, 2003

Legislation backs Alberta's plan to reduce emissions

Legislation introduced by the Alberta government last week will provide the framework for implementing the province's action plan on climate change. Bill 37, the proposed Climate Change and Emissions Management Act, strengthens and complements Alberta's existing legislation on environmental protection and resource management related to air emissions.

Environment Minister Lorne Taylor pointed out that the bill reflects a revised version of legislation previously tabled in the Legislative Assembly last fall. "Since then, the province had the opportunity to seek further input from Albertans and subsequently strengthen the legislation to better focus on what Albertans can and will do to improve how we manage our emissions, and hence make a difference to Alberta's environment," he said. "More importantly," Taylor added, "it reinforces the approach we advocate in our provincial action plan that it is possible to reduce emissions, and at the same time maintain, or even enhance, economic prosperity."

Bill 37, the Climate Change Emissions Management Act, specifies an overall reduction target for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, relative to gross domestic product, of 50% or more below 1990 levels. Its enabling provisions will allow targets for specific sectors of Alberta's economy to be established by negotiated agreements, and will authorize the Environment Minister to enter into sectoral agreements providing a full range of options for achieving cost-effective emission reductions.

The legislation includes a framework for applying emissions offsets against Alberta regulatory requirements and sectoral agreements. It further provides for mandatory reporting of GHG releases at or above levels or in circumstances set by regulations. The bill will enable the Minister to set up or participate in various emissions management programs and to enter into interjurisdictional co-operative agreements aimed a reducing emissions.

A provincial climate change and emissions management fund will be created under the legislation, to help sectors reduce emissions and support the development, demonstration and use of technologies and measures for energy conservation, energy efficiency, GHG capture and sequestration, and climate change adaptation programs and activities. The fund would be held and administered by the Minister of Finance. Its revenue would come from payments made under the terms of sectoral agreements, money paid to the government as a result of enforcement activities under the act, appropriations voted for the fund, and contributions.

Other provisions deal with administrative penalties, liability of corporate directors and officers, confidentiality of information, and regulations. The full text of Bill 37 may be viewed online at www.assembly.ab.ca. More information is available from Val Mellesmoen at Alberta Environment, 780/427-2848.

The Alberta government will be allocating increased funds during fiscal 2003-04 to support the climate change plan and its other major initiative, the provincial water strategy (ELW April 7). The 2003-04 budget, presented last week by Finance Minister Patricia Nelson, will increase Alberta Environment's budget by $13 million, from $109 million in 2002-03 to $122 million for 2003-04.

An additional $5 million will be allocated to support activities connected with Alberta's climate change action plan. Particular focus will be on negotiating sectoral agreements for greenhouse gas emission reduction in key sectors; funding for energy efficiency initiatives through Climate Change Central; and investments in climate change adaptation research. This funding complements an extra $5 million being provided to Alberta Innovation and Science.

The budget will direct $2 million toward activities supporting Alberta's Water for Life strategy. The funding will be invested in a province-wide assessment of municipal drinking water treatment facilities and infrastructure, and in improving data collection and reporting systems for water quality and quantity. An additional $2 million is being allocated within Alberta Environment's budget to improve infrastructure for irrigation and provincially-operated municipal water supply systems.

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