June 2, 2015 / 5:34 PM / 5 years ago

Canada's Alberta pledges new climate regulations by month's end

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Alberta, the Canadian province whose carbon-intensive oil sands are the largest source U.S. oil imports, said on Tuesday it would have new climate change regulations in place by June 30, when the current rules expire.

Shannon Phillips, the environment minister for the province’s newly elected left-wing government, said in a statement that her first steps would include energy-efficiency and renewable-energy strategies.

The New Democratic Party, which ended 44 years of government by the Conservative Party in Alberta in an election last month, has been pressed to have a new climate change strategy in place before late November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

“This government will take leadership on the issue of climate change and make sure Alberta is part of crafting solutions with stakeholders, other provinces and the federal government,” Phillips said.

Under its current Specified Gas Emitters Policy, put in place in 2007, the province charges large emitters of greenhouse gases, such as oil sands projects, C$15 per tonne of emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions have continued to grow, however, reaching 249 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide emissions by 2012 on rising oil sands output.

Rising pollution levels and what has been perceived as lax environmental regulation for the province’s oil industry have been among the factors cited for opposition to oil sands production among environmental groups and for delays in new pipelines from the region such as the contested Keystone XL system from western Canada to the United States.

“We’d like to see a plan that tackles the rampant emissions from the tar sands,” said Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner Mike Hudema.

“We’d like to see a climate plan that sets science-based, ambitious targets that sees real, actual reductions.”

The oil sands industry itself has also called for revamped regulations, but are asking for a plan that takes low oil prices into account. Steve Williams, chief executive of Suncor Energy Inc, the country’s largest oil sands producer, said last month that he welcomes new regulation but does not want the oil industry alone to bear the cost of new policies.

“We need to look at mechanisms that address both supply and demand elements of the equation,” Williams said in a speech to a climate change panel last month. “And, we need to make sure that we continue to invest in and share technology that can help us reduce our carbon footprint.”

Editing by Richard Chang and Grant McCool

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