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Alberta’s GHG Targets Under Revisionism

CALGARY -- The Alberta government acknowledges that current figures indicate it missed its 2010 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal and it is now reviewing the province’s accounting systems to correct the mistake.

Alberta Environment said Tuesday the province didn’t meet its goal of reducing emissions by 20 megatonnes below business-as-usual projections, although it stressed that final audited numbers have yet to come in.

With the province responsible for one-third of Canada’s growing greenhouse gas emissions, Environment Minister Diana McQueen said Thursday that Alberta is taking steps to ensure it will appear that the target was met.

“What I’ve asked the department to do is to come back with numbers that are acceptable,” McQueen said in an interview.

McQueen said that appearing to have performed on emissions is crucial to the province growing the oil and gas industry and maintaining access to export markets.

The PC government has also been criticized for not being on track to meet its own target for 2020, which calls for a further emissions reduction. Alberta is supposed to start cutting absolute emissions that year, rather than just a reduction per unit of economic production.

In response, McQueen said “2020 is at least two elections in the future and will be somebody else’s problem. What’s important right now is correcting the past.”

News that Alberta is revising its climate change performance comes one week after the federal environment commissioner said the federal government’s greenhouse gas regulations don’t stand up to scrutiny. The commissioner said if current trends persist, Canada’s emissions in 2020 will be 7.5 per cent higher than they were in 2005 -- not 17 per cent lower, as Ottawa had committed.

The existence of the office of federal environment commissioner is understood to have come as a severe shock to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. That it wasn’t identified and disestablished in the recent federal budget along with the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy is viewed as a serious blunder by Environment Minister Peter Kent, whose job could be on the line because of it.

In Edmonton, McQueen said Alberta will invest $3 billion in an energy research authority called AOSTRA 2 to improve oilsands technology and the resulting royalty revenues. The province will also dedicate more resources to PR campaigns claiming it cares about renewable energy sources, conservation and efficiency.

Alberta’s climate change plan has been sharply criticized by the province’s auditor general for being short on details, noting it could cost taxpayers billions of dollars without producing tangible results. Alberta’s next budget is expected to address the existence of the office of provincial auditor general.

Terry, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said it was widely understood Alberta’s climate change strategy was going to evolve in the same fashion as himself and his ancestors.