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Alberta environment minister downplays expected climate announcement

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips. The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG – Alberta is still consulting on its much-anticipated new climate strategy just days before a major announcement on it is expected.

“We are going to be talking with industry over the coming weeks on exactly what our framework looks like,” said Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, speaking at a meeting of provincial environment ministers in Winnipeg.

“We have not yet completed those consultations.”

Alberta’s recently elected New Democrat government has promised an announcement on a new strategy to fight climate change by the end of the month. The timing coincides with the expiration of the province’s Specified Gas Emitters Regulation, which lays out the rules for its carbon-pricing scheme.

Phillips confirmed Tuesday that rule will be extended.

“We are renewing the regulations before they expire at the end of June,” she said.

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However, she wouldn’t say if the coming announcement would contain new rules for greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands.

“We are going to be talking with industry over the coming weeks on exactly what our framework looks like. This is the beginning of our process to renew the regulation and to outline our chart forward and our blueprint for how we’re going to proceed in the weeks and months coming up to Paris.”

Nations around the world are to meet in Paris next December to table their plans and targets for reducing climate change-causing carbon dioxide emissions.

Phillips said this June’s announcement will lay out how the new government plans to develop its strategy.

“(We) will be unveiling the plan that moves forward on how we are going to involve Albertans and industry, environmental groups and others in our conversation,” she said.

In Winnipeg, the ministers agreed to set up a climate change committee to compare best practices and collaborate on the issue. Provinces have taken varying approaches to the problem, from the cap-and-trade models in Quebec and Ontario to British Columbia’s carbon tax.

Phillips said Alberta’s mind is still open.

“We are deliberating on these matters and we are examining all of our alternatives right now so that we can do better on the issue of climate change. These are early days for us, but we are taking a close look at the various models that prevail across the country.”

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The New Democrats have also promised a review of the royalty rates it imposes on its energy sector. Premier Rachel Notley recently said that the province’s climate change strategy will be linked with that review.

The royalty review has not yet begun.