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A year after unveiling its Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan, Alberta has released no details on how it will reach its 2050 net-zero target or completed an assessment to reduce the environmental footprint of various industries.

Nor has the government established any of the plan’s promised Indigenous and youth consultation groups, examined lowering the oil sands emissions cap or released any reports documenting its progress on any area of the plan.

The United Conservative government’s lack of tangible action shows it’s not making emissions reduction a priority, said Simon Dyer, deputy executive director of the Pembina Institute, a clean-energy think tank.

“Decarbonization policy is economic policy. So, Alberta is placing its economy at risk if we fall further behind without a clear plan to reduce emissions and make our industries lower carbon and competitive in the coming net-zero economy,” Mr. Dyer said.

Alberta’s emissions reduction plan bills itself as a “bold and unmistakably Albertan plan to lower emissions to carbon neutral by 2050, with practical, feasible actions that harness the ingenuity, the passion and the creativity of our province.” But the road map depends on technology that is not yet viable, regulations that do not yet exist and interim targets that – a year later – still have not been set.

Despite the lack of concrete actions contained in the document, the government has used it as proof Alberta is serious about reducing emissions. Last month, for example, Premier Danielle Smith referenced the plan twice while testifying at a parliamentary committee that the federal government should abandon Canada’s consumer carbon tax.

Then-environment minister Sonya Savage released the plan in April, 2023, a month before a provincial election. She acknowledged at the time that Alberta was lagging behind on emissions reduction plans and said that the government had hired a third party to develop sector-by-sector targets.

A year on, Mr. Dyer said it is “completely unacceptable that the government appears to have done so little work.”

Alberta has the highest emissions in Canada, and they have increased more than any other province since 2005, he added, yet there are still no short-term targets, no transparency and no accountability mechanisms in place.

“Alberta has wasted a year in terms of implementation,” he said.

Current Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz was not made available for an interview for this story.

However, the government told The Globe and Mail in an e-mail that it continues to work with stakeholders to study challenges around decarbonization and better understand the province’s competitiveness in key sectors of the clean economy, noting that the work is highly technical and guided by confidential financial information.

Asked for its key achievements on the emissions plan to date, the government pointed to its support of small modular nuclear reactors, plastics management and hydrogen, particularly in the transportation space, and investments in clean technology research and carbon capture and storage, which plays a crucial role in decarbonization plans of the oil sands.

It also listed a new agri-processing tax credit and the proclamation of acts around minerals development and the electricity sector.

In a statement, Ms. Schulz said such investments are delivering results, adding she is confident that Alberta will continue to reduce emissions in the years to come.

Mr. Dyer countered that there has been no movement on the core elements of the emissions plan; that is, looking for abatement curves for individual sectors, and setting targets and pathways for different economic subsectors.

“We need those sectoral pathways to understand how different sectors can decarbonize set policies, particularly for oil and gas,” he said.

Oil and gas are key economic drivers in Alberta, but they’re also the most emissions-heavy sectors.

To reduce their footprint, the plan proposes reducing methane emissions by 75 to 80 per cent from 2014 levels using regulations and market-based incentives, and improving measurement and reporting. The government said it hopes to begin engaging with industry and others this year on ways to reduce methane emissions.

The plan also noted that Alberta would “explore reducing the provincial legislated oil sands emission limit and implementing regulations” that would align with targets by oil sands producers to reduce their emissions to net-zero by 2050 – something the government said it would look at in the future.

But Mr. Dyer said the province cannot afford to keep pushing decisions on emissions down the road.

“We need a regulated target for oil and gas from Alberta. There’s a very short runway here,” he said.

“I’m surprised and perplexed that an energy province like Alberta, in 2024, still does not have an effective climate action plan and it’s really not hit basic expectations around accountability or reporting progress on climate change.”

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