Alberta addresses battered environmental reputation with climate plan

Mon Nov 23, 2015 7:26pm EST
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By Mike De Souza

CALGARY Nov 23 (Reuters) - The Canadian province of Alberta, holder of the world's third-largest oil reserves, has proposed a new climate change plan that will give efficient oil-producing companies room to grow while cutting carbon emissions, experts and stakeholders said on Monday.

Long criticized as a source for "dirty oil" because most of the reserves are heavy bitumen deposits found in the province's oil sands, Alberta's left-leaning government created an unlikely partnership between oil industry executives, indigenous leaders and prominent environmentalists to forge the accord.

The proposal comes as world leaders prepare to discuss plans to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels at a summit in France starting Nov. 30.

It also came as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with provincial and territorial leaders to hammer out Canada's position at the meeting, to be held at Le Bourget, north of Paris.

"I'm convinced that the oil sands CEOs understand that you can't be the high cost, high carbon producer in the world anymore," said Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Alberta-based Pembina Institute.

"It was all a very tight timeline, because obviously, the premier wanted this announcement in the bag... before she goes to Paris," he added.

The oil sands, natural deposits of tar-like heavy oil, are a key driver of the Canadian economy and put the province's reserves behind only Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

But environmentalists have criticized the industry's energy intensive production process, which makes it Canada's fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.   Continued...