EDMONTON – Alberta’s environment minister is acknowledging the provincial government is coming under more international pressure to improve its record on climate change.
“I’ve had meetings with the U.K. consul general and with the Americans as well,” Shannon Phillips told reporters Wednesday. “There’s a real appetite for Alberta to be a global leader on energy development.”
Phillips spoke at a conference on the province’s climate policy sponsored by the Pembina Institute, a clean-energy think-tank. After her speech, she said talks with other countries have been productive.
“Those kinds of conversations are collaborative,” she said. “People have said things like, ‘How can we help?’ and I think that’s the right approach. There’s no demands and requests.”
But that collaborative approach won’t let Alberta off the hook, she added.
“We don’t have choice in this matter. We have to refurbish our global reputation and we know we can.”
That no-choice tone prevailed in her remarks before an overflow crowd of several hundred at the conference. The world’s approach to energy is changing, she said, and Alberta must change with it.
“It is our choice whether we want to participate in that transition or sit on the sidelines.”
The province is currently rewriting its climate change policy. It expects a report from an expert panel later this fall, in time to take to a major international conference on the issue in Paris in December.
Phillips promised that policy will be both effective and credible.
“Governments in Alberta and around the world have been setting ambitious and, in some ways, arbitrary goals for years.
“We want to set goals that will make a real difference. Then we will take it one step further. We will do the unexpected.
“We will achieve those goals.”
The stakes are high, said Phillips.
“Our credibility is crucial to our economic future.”
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation — an aboriginal band that lives in the oilsands region — told the conference that the environment around his community of Fort Chipewyan can’t take any more industry.
“We are feeling the effects of development far more than usual,” said Adam, who added that the Athabasca River is far lower than its traditional levels.
“We are the people in the sacrifice zone. That has to stop.”
— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960