UPDATED May 25, 2023 @ 2:30pm
Table of Contents
This election, Generation Squeeze is undertaking a rigorous assessment of Alberta provincial party platforms and commitments on five key issues: investing fairly in all generations, investing in wellbeing (not just medical care), housing affordability, family affordability, and climate justice.
Our mission: to help voters better understand how far each party's platform goes towards actually solving big problems facing Albertans, and how these problems help prop up a broken generational system.
Gen Squeeze does not tell you who to vote for, and we don’t aim to portray any party in a favourable or unfavorable light. Our goal is to help voters be as informed as possible about the positions of all of the parties on big issues for generational fairness in Alberta. Learn more about our methodology and commitments to non-partisan and evidence-based analysis
Perhaps the most visible symptom of generational unfairness is the financial, health and environmental risks posed by our changing climate. To avoid the worst climate dangers, young people today must change where they work, what they eat, how they commute, how they holiday – and much, much more. Research confirms the enormous impact these pressures are having on the wellbeing of younger generations. The burden to adapt falls disproportionately on younger people, who are inheriting a massive climate debt from those who came before them.
Our analysis of party platforms would normally assess the degree to which the UCP and Alberta NDP are acting on 24 evidence-based actions needed to hold climate change to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, the absence of climate commitments from the NDP makes it impossible to credibly assess their platform. This is first for Generation Squeeze. In our years of helping voters get informed about what political parties across Canada are offering during provincial and federal elections, this is the only time a party has provided so little information that we’re unable to complete an evaluation.
We decided to go ahead with the UCP analysis, so voters are informed about what this party is doing to counter the risks and costs of extreme weather and climate change. Our UCP analysis is based largely on the Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan released in April 2023. We also consider some climate related commitments made in the 2023 Alberta Budget.
The 24 actions against which we assess the UCP platform are identified in our comprehensive climate policy solutions framework. This framework was created drawing on evidence from Canadian and international climate experts, notably the Canadian Climate Institute (CCI). The framework is validated by David Sawyer, CCI’s principal economist.
In the midst of wildfires ravaging Alberta’s north and sending harmful smoke to communities around the province (and many outside it), it’s not a stretch to expect that issues of extreme weather and climate change would be central in this May’s election. But they aren’t. Environmental considerations are more or less absent from political debate.
It’s shocking that parties campaigning to lead one of Canada’s most populous provinces are convinced they can chart a path to victory while ignoring the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century. We know who will pay the price for this head-in-the-sand approach: our kids and grandkids.
Alberta is failing younger and future generations
Younger and future generations won’t have any choice but to shoulder the growing costs and burdens of reducing emissions and adapting to extreme weather risks. Insufficient action on climate change by those who preceded them means the youth of today (and tomorrow) will be stuck with a bill today’s aging population isn’t willing to pay – despite having made the mess in the first place.
Trust has been a key theme in this election: which party people can trust to deliver the prosperity and services they want now. Yet both parties have ignored the sacred trust of preserving the safe and healthy environment that young people and generations of Albertans to come will need to realize their potential and achieve wellbeing. That’s not the kind of leadership that will serve Alberta well.
Climate change is the mother of all intergenerational injustices – the largest debt ever to be passed from one generation to the next. That this hardly merits a mention on the campaign trail should be especially alarming to Alberta parents, since their kids will be living longer in an unpredictable changing climate. It’s little wonder younger generations report less optimism about the future, declining mental health, and growing eco-anxiety.
Albertans can’t vote informed when parties aren’t transparent
For the first time since Generation Squeeze set out on our mission to help inform voters about promises on offer from political parties across Canada, we were stymied by the absence of platform content from both major Alberta parties. This is especially noteworthy on climate, given the complete absence of relevant policy in NDP commitments. For its part, the UCP delivered an aspirational Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan in April, but falls short on concrete actions.
The effects of extreme weather are here, seemingly to stay. Communities across Alberta are struggling with fires, floods, and droughts – and their impacts on economies, infrastructure and health. Yet neither the UCP nor the NDP has the backs of Albertans, helping protect them from these threats via concrete plans, funding, timelines and accountability mechanisms.
To be clear, Alberta voters are also implicated. Expectations for lower taxes and more and better public services ramp up pressure on governments to count on revenue from fossil fuel extraction – despite the price tag for the safety of Alberta’s air, water and soil.
Vote like a good ancestor
Albertans should expect more from future provincial leaders. But we’re unlikely to get more until candidates can count on voters to think long-term, looking backwards and forwards. We need to be brave enough to admit that we’ve taken more from our environment than we leave behind. On our watch, we’ve created the climate risks our kids will inherit.
To fix this, we must vote as good ancestors, using our ballots to protect and restore what is sacred for those who follow – including the ecosystems on which we all depend.
Summary score table
The table below would usually summarize scores for the UCP and Alberta NDP on each of the 24 climate action policy criteria. However, we are unable to complete an analysis of the NDP’s position on climate change because the party has not released policy statements that provide sufficient information on which to base a credible assessment. That’s why the table below includes scores only for the UCP.
We welcome feedback from parties, including concerns that we may have misinterpreted elements of their platforms when assigning our scores. We commit to revising our scores in light of party evidence that their platforms or other election documents include commitments that align with the evaluation criteria.
Climate Stewardship Criteria
CLEAR GOALS AND PRINCIPLES
Criterion 1: Do the parties embrace the goal to hold climate change to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius?
Science shows that increases in global temperatures beyond 1.5 degrees literally put Canadian lives and livelihoods in jeopardy. That’s why we want all parties to commit to the goal of meeting this critical target.
The UCP’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan indicates that the party aspires to net zero carbon neutral economy by 2050: “We aspire to achieve a net zero carbon neutral economy by 2050, and to do so without compromising affordable, reliable and secure energy for Albertans, Canadians and the world… Carbon neutrality (often referred to as net zero) means that any greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere will be balanced through removals such as nature-based or technological sequestration, or offset with greenhouse gas emission reduction or removal credits including the international transfer of carbon credits between countries under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement” (p. 6).
We award the UCP one point on this criterion.
Criterion 2: Do the platforms commit to the principle that we’re all in this together?
Climate change is the quintessential collective problem. It affects us all — and we all can contribute to solutions. Recognizing that wecre all in this together entails sharing responsibility for achieving our goal, and ensuring collaboration on solutions.
The UCP Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan acknowledges that responsibility to address issues around climate and the environment is shared. For example:
- “Alberta seeks to partner with Indigenous Peoples as stewards of the land, water and air. Traditional ecological knowledge is valued and already considered in development decisions. As we move forward, we will encourage joint participation in emissions reduction plans as well as resource development” (p. 8)
- “The technological innovation needed will require all levels of government to be responsive to industry and investor requirements, especially for de-risking and policy certainty. This will require collaboration between the province, industry and Indigenous communities and organizations, labour, finance and others” (p. 8)
We award the UCP one point on this criterion.
Criterion 3: Do the platforms commit to the principle of leaving one behind?
Vulnerability to the social, economic, health, and other impacts of climate change is uneven, making it important to pay attention to who’s likely to bear the greatest risks and costs. Of particular concern for Gen Squeeze is the fact younger people will bear the lion’s share of impacts, simply because they will have to cope longer with a changing climate.
Some groups and communities will experience greater climate impacts because of social and economic inequalities that shape wellbeing, and affect abilities to adapt to climate conditions. In a large country like Canada, there are also regional differences in climate and emission reduction impacts. For example, regions most impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels should receive the support they need to secure a fair transition. Finally, carbon emissions should be assess using a global ’fair share‘ lens that considers discrepancies in the source of emissions (developed countries) versus the impacts of emissions (which often disproportionate fall on developing countries).
The UCP plan rarely talks about vulnerability to climate impacts, or potential winners and losers from policy action on emissions reduction. The Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan includes several mentions to the participation of Indigenous people. For example, that “Alberta will explore ways to enhance Indigenous participation in projects for bitumen beyond combustion” (p. 31), and that reducing emissions “will require building partnerships with Indigenous Peoples as a key aspect of reconciliation, and it will necessitate Indigenous leadership in natural resource and energy development” (p. 6). Recognizing the need to engage with Indigenous communities is an important place to start. However, the Plan has rarely mention other groups that are more vulnerable to extreme weather and climate risks.
For this reason, we award the UCP half a point.
Criterion 4: Do the platforms commit to the principle of reducing emissions & adapting to climate risks?
Reducing emissions is critical, but designing and implementing measures to adapt to a changing climate is also essential to reduce costs for our economy, infrastructure, and health.
The Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan is heavily focused on emissions and energy development and production. There is comparatively very little reference to climate risks and the need for adaptation in order to reduce them. Given the lack of attention to both of these issues, we award the UCP only half a point.
MOBILIZE THE MARKET
Markets are powerful. They influence our decisions about what — and how much — to consume by setting prices on things we want. That’s why pricing pollution can motivate consumers and emitters alike to find cleaner options. It’s also why post-pandemic gas price increases yielded numerous stories about people adapting by driving less, taking transit more, or searching for more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Our decisions as individual consumers can help to mobilize the market to prioritize a healthy environment for generations to come. Our decisions as citizens about where to put our votes can signal to political leaders what measures we want them to take to marshal the power of markets for climate action.
Criterion 5: Do the platforms propose actions that send the right signals?
One critical step we can take to harness the power of markets for climate health is ramping up expectations for polluters to pay for their pollution now, versus pushing these costs down the road for younger and future generations to pay. This is part of the broader tax shift Gen Squeeze recommends. In a nutshell, we propose that governments increase prices on pollution, and use the revenue to lower taxes on income. This tax shift will effectively ensure that things we don’t want (pollution) are taxed more while things we do want (labour and work) are taxed less. Income taxes could be lowered via cuts to tax rates, rebates (tax deductions or credits), dividends, or other similar mechanisms.
We also need comprehensive action to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Since these subsidies lower the price of something we don’t want (pollution), they make no sense if our goal is to incentivize a clean energy transition in line with 2050 net zero commitments. For markets to function, we need industries and consumers to understand — and respond to — the full costs of fossil fuel energy, including environmental and health impacts.
The UCP clearly wants to position Alberta as a province acting on climate risks created by emissions. The Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan draws attention to Alberta being “the first jurisdiction in North America to put a carbon price on industrial emissions” (p. 14), and describes Alberta as a “global leader in emissions reduction and climate” with “environmental leadership” that is “unparalleled” (p. 9).
It’s good to see that the Plan upholds Alberta’s industrial carbon pricing system – the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Regulation (TIER), which is sufficient for Alberta to avoid application of the federal pollution price. However, the party also has a strong focus on reducing the financial impacts of carbon pricing on industry, undermining incentives for these businesses to reduce emissions. For example: “The Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) regulatory system is Alberta’s third-generation industrial carbon pricing and emissions trading system… As part of continuous improvement, the TIER Regulation will be reviewed by the end of 2026 to ensure the policy is delivering the intended outcomes of emission reductions while protecting competitiveness” (p. 14).
While championing its record on industrial carbon pricing, the UCP simultaneously argues against the application of the federal backstop carbon tax on Albertan families. UCP platform documents state that a “UCP government will work to axe the carbon tax altogether because the best way governments can help address affordability is by ensuring you, the taxpayer, keep more money in your pocket” (Tax Cuts for all Albertans). In addition to being at odds with Nobel Prize winning evidence on effective ways to combat emissions, this move is inconsistent with the market logic of taxing more things we don’t want – like pollution.
Apart from carbon pricing, the UCP Plan isn’t very specific about other measures that will be implemented to help mobilize markets to act to address the risks created by extreme weather and climate change. Half a point is awarded.
Criterion 6: Do the platforms propose actions that raise money to make money?
We need action to get investors about the green economy, and to ensure that considerations around sustainability are included in decision-making and accountability structures in our financial system. In addition, all Canadians should have options to invest in climate action, via tools like green bonds.
The Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan includes little attention to catalyzing financing, with only weak commitments made. For example, the Plan notes that the “Alberta Environment and Protected Areas, jointly with Treasury Board and Finance, is considering creating an advisory group on sustainable finance to provide recommendations on Canadian taxonomy and the investment framework needed to ensure the right checks and balances are in place and to support innovation in the province” (p. 58).
More importantly, there are some references to measures that will undermine emerging approaches to help understand the climate impacts of financial flows. Notably, that “Canada is in the process of developing its own taxonomy, a system of classification for these financial instruments. It is crucial for a resource-intensive province such as Alberta to participate in these discussions, among other reasons, to advocate for natural gas to be classified as a transition fuel. As a resource-based economy, Alberta must develop a coherent plan in tandem with the taxonomy with the goal of receiving an equitable distribution of carbon permits from the importing nation” (p. 59).
We award no points to the UCP on this criterion.
SUPPORT CANADIANS TO BECOME CLIMATE LEADERS
Criterion 7: Do the platforms propose actions that help Canadian business?
Helping Canadian businesses, including farmers, to navigate a green economy transition includes supporting the adoption of new technologies, investing in research and development, and expanding strategies to share our expertise with the world.
There are numerous references in the Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan to the UCP’s support for adopting new technologies, investing in research and development, and sharing Alberta’s expertise with the world.
We award only half a point, given that most of these assertions lack specificity. For example, the Plan notes that the UCP will accelerate “the path to a circular economy with a province-wide recycling and diversion system for plastics” (p. 27). However, this claim isn’t backed up with detailed policy commitments, funding or timelines.
Criterion 8: Do the platforms propose actions that help Canadian workers?
Reorienting Canada’s workforce towards the green economy requires assessing needs and developing strategies for upgrading skills — including for workers in fossil fuel-based industries. We must also focus on training new workers who are ready for, and can help to build, the clean energy economy. Governments can then leverage this new supply of skilled workers to meet public procurement requirements, and provide incentives for private investment. A strategy to support Canadian workers should intersect with plans to recruit skilled labour via immigration, but there should be an explicit commitment to hiring Canadian talent first for good-paying clean economy jobs.
The UCP Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan does not include specific measures to help workers in Alberta adapt to extreme weather and climate related shifts. The Plan refers in a general way to “[c]reating new and exciting career opportunities for youth” and working “collaboratively with employers, industry associations and our post-secondary community to ensure that the skills being developed will meet the needs of the economy” (p. 60). It also points to investing $600 million over 3 years for the Albert Work program, “a collection of strategic investments to help Albertans develop new skills and grow their careers” (p. 60).
While this language signals awareness of climate disruption for Alberta workers, the commitments are high-level and lack the detail needed for clear planning and action. It’s particularly notable that the Plan includes little mention of helping to transition workers likely to be most affected by climate change – despite risks that declining global demand for fossil fuels will heavily impact workers in this sector. For these reasons, we award the UCP only half a point.
Criterion 9: Do the platforms propose actions that help Canadian communities?
We need to facilitate communities making the transition to greater sustainability via support for urban planning (to combat sprawl, and increase density and walkability); building systems (to align with net-zero-emission objectives); and community and economic development (to increase diversity, livability, and green economy jobs).
UCP platform documents do not include any specific measures to help communities deal with the climate impacts already affecting cities and towns across Alberta. This is particularly surprising in the wake of the wildfires this spring. No points are awarded.
UPGRADE OUR LIVES WITH A CARBON MAKEOVER
Criterion 10: Do the platforms propose actions that advance clean & renewable electricity?
We need to move Canada towards 100% reliance on clean and renewable sources of electricity (which doesn’t include nuclear energy, because it is not renewable). And we’ll need to generate more electricity, as end uses like transportation move towards electrification. This transition will require East-West intelligent grid connections and development of a full range of clean electricity sources across Canada.
There is a heavy emphasis in the Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan on continuing to use natural gas as a main source of electricity generation for Alberta, despite the implications for emissions. The Plan bluntly states that it “reflects the necessity of natural gas being the predominant feedstock for electrical generation for many years to come” (p. 22). Though it does also allow that “Alberta will consider energy management to supports to continue driving energy efficiency and emissions reduction projects in industrial and commercial facilities” (p. 35).
The Plan does allow that there is “opportunity for further emissions reductions from the electricity sector through CCUS, hydrogen, renewables and other technology” (p. 22). But goes on to say that “Alberta will not forfeit the affordability and reliability of the system in pursuit of unrealistic federal targets. Alberta’s Electric System Operator has estimated the cost to achieve the federal net-zero target to be more than $44 billion dollars (not including distribution system change costs)” (p. 22).
The above figure provided by the UCP on the costs of transitioning to net zero and implementing more renewable energy sources is exaggerated – with Alberta’s own consultants setting the record straight.
We deduct a full point from the UCP for this criterion.
Criterion 11: Do the platforms propose actions that advance clean energy?
We are looking for platform language that affirms the importance of designing budgets to invest fairly in all generations.
Alongside a clean supply of electricity, we need action to advance clean energy more generally. This includes transitioning away from oil and non-renewable gas production in a just way, clean electrification of industrial energy/power systems, and capture of industrial non-energy emissions such as methane leakage from oil and gas.
The UCP proposes to rely almost exclusively on natural gas and other energies derived from natural gas (i.e. grey hydrogen) to meet the province’s energy needs. The Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plancharacterizes gas as a “clean option for energy generation and industrial process heat” (p. 25). It’s unclear how this focus on natural gas is consistent with long-term emissions reduction aspirations that the UCP articulates for the province.
The UCP may be hoping to square this circle by suggesting that “Canada can contribute to global emissions reductions by increasing natural gas production and LNG exports to coal-reliant countries, even if it results in fewer emission reductions from the natural gas sector domestically. Policies that diminish Canada’s role as a global supplier of natural gas may do more harm than good from a global perspective – which is the perspective that matters” (p. 25). While global emissions and fair share considerations are important, Alberta and Canada still need to do their part domestically, especially in emissions intensive sectors like fossil fuels.
The UCP supports continued implementation of Alberta’s Hydrogen Roadmap, with the intention of positioning Alberta as a leader to meet demands for clean hydrogen (p. 27). Similarly, the party commits to working to make Alberta “an international geothermal hub by engaging with industry, academia, Indigenous communities and other stakeholders by advancing technology and promoting its adoption at a global scale” (p. 36).
The UCP’s strong commitment to pushing fossil fuel exports to power provincial business and industry outweighs the small positive steps being proposed in other areas. We award the UCP no points on this criterion.
Criterion 12: Do the platforms propose actions that advance clean transportation?
Transportation accounts for one quarter of Canada’s carbon emissions. We need to create more clean transportation options for individuals and across transportation networks. This includes electric and hydrogen powered vehicles, growing public transit infrastructure, and expanding active transportation options.
On clean transportation, the UCP’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan focuses primarily on hydrogen, though few concrete proposals are made. The document mentions that the “introduction” of hydrogen for vehicles, buses, rail and airlines is “underway through various pilot projects” (p. 22 & 45). It also notes that “clean hydrogen produced with CCUS will help the transportation sector achieve lower emissions” (p. 22).
There is almost no discussion of other forms of low emitting transportation – such as electric vehicles – even though hydrogen will have limited application in many forms of transport, like light duty vehicles. For this reason, we award the UCP only half a point.
Criterion 13: Do the platforms propose actions that advance zero emission homes & buildings?
This includes electrification of heating systems and enhanced energy efficiency. Reducing building emissions must be connected with efforts to restore housing affordability, given that the residential sector contributes one-quarter of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. As we increase housing supply, we have a generational opportunity to ensure that those new homes are also green.
The UCP does not make any concrete proposals on zero emissions homes and buildings. The Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan includes a vague reference to blending hydrogen with existing natural gas for home and commercial utility heating (p. 38). It also proposes advocacy “for the use of low carbon building materials” (p. 52). Similarly, the Plan refers to some demand side management programs, like establishing low-carbon standards for utility natural gas (p. 44), and investing $15 million over three years to “support municipalities, communities and Albertans to enhance energy security and reduce energy use and emissions through the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre” (p. 47).
Since no details or specific policies are included, the party receives no points on this criterion.
Criterion 14: Do the platforms propose actions that advance smart land use?
We need action to advance smart land use, particularly within urban settings. This includes combatting sprawl, landfill gas capture, and protecting agricultural and greenbelt lands.
There's no mention in the Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan of smart land use planning and its value for emissions reduction. The Plan does indicate that the province will continue “efforts on land-use planning to provide for long-term resilient ecosystems, communities, and economies, including nature-based solutions” (p. 56), as well as work already underway to reduce methane emissions at landfills, including with carbon offset incentives (p. 39).
Since there are no concrete new policies or programs to back up these ideas, no points are awarded.
COMMIT TO CARBON DRAWDOWN
Criterion 15: Do the platforms propose actions that advance nature-based solutions, including regenerative agriculture?
Protecting, managing, and restoring natural and human-modified landscapes is critical to reduce the worst risks of climate change, and protect against impacts already being felt in communities across Canada. Working with nature to reduce our contribution to climate change can be a path to win-win solutions that benefit people and the planet. This includes growing food using regenerative farming practices, restoring coastal and wetland ecosystems, protecting forests and grasslands, and planting trees.
The UCP Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan refers in many places to using nature-based solutions to increase carbon storage and achieve emissions reductions. The Plan commits Alberta to developing “a nature-based solutions policy framework that will include various tools to support conserving biodiversity, adaptive capacity and other ecosystem and cultural benefits as well as climate mitigation and resilience” (p. 56). The potential positive impacts from nature-based solutions are also flagged. “Nature-based solutions can provide up to one-third of the global mitigation needs” (p. 55); and Alberta specifically has “potential for approximately 10 to 20 Mt per year of avoided emissions or increased sequestration between 2030 and 2050” (p. 55).
A number of measures to advance nature-based solutions are noted in the Plan, though in very broad and general terms, without specific proposals for implementation or action. For example:
- Supporting “the growth of the bioeconomy” (p. 52)
- Developing “a nature-based solutions policy framework” (p. 56)
- Developing “a strategy to provide clarity on the priorities for conservation outcomes” (p. 56)
- Working with the livestock industry to develop a policy on sustainable grazing and ecosystem stewardship (p. 56)
- Working with Indigenous group on cooperative management of wildland parks with a focus on conservation and traditional uses (p. 63)
High level language from the UCP on nature-based solutions is encouraging. However, its significance is compromised by the absence of concrete proposals for policy design or implementation, along with timelines or accountability mechanisms.
A half point is awarded.
Criterion 16: Do the platforms propose actions that advance climate friendly food & food waste systems?
Globally, food systems (including agriculture) contribute one third of total carbon emissions. Action is needed to ensure that the food we eat does not accelerate climate change, while also reducing food loss and waste.
No concrete proposals or programs on food systems and food waste are included in the UCP’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan. The plan acknowledges that agricultural provides “ecosystem services which are currently not captured in traditional markets” in the context of “exploring new and existing best management practices for greenhouse gas emissions reduction and removal” (p. 50).
Since no specific policies or actions are advanced, no points are awarded to the UCP on this criterion.
Criterion 17: Do the platforms propose actions that advance technological solutions?
Although the jury is still out on the value of technological solutions to reducing carbon emissions, they may play a role in mitigating some of the worst climate risks and supporting industrial transitions — particularly the fossil fuel sector. Technological solutions include various approaches to capturing carbon already released into the atmosphere, such as direct air capture, or sequestering carbon safely underground (often referred to as carbon capture and storage).
One of the main areas of focus for the UCP is on carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies. The Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan notes that “[l]arge-scale support for CCUS is essential for meeting Canada’s long-term climate goals and energy security” (see message from Sonya Savage). Alberta is identified by the UCP as an early adopter and leader on CCUS, via its Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction system.
Declines in Alberta’s emissions to date are credited to “industrial carbon pricing, clean technology and innovation, and CCUS” (p. 11). And the UCP is confident about the role of CCUS in achieving further reductions, affirming that nascent CCUS hubs “could facilitate decarbonization plans for the oil sands and for industries that include power, clean hydrogen, petrochemicals, upgrading and refining, cement, steel, fertilizer, biodiesel production and gas processing. These projects, worth billions of dollars, will position Alberta to reduce emissions domestically while allowing Alberta’s products to compete strongly in a global market” (p. 18).
Although there’s a strong focus on and commitment to CCUS, other technologies – such as electric vehicles and heat pumps – are little mentioned and aren’t supported by specific actions to help catalyze their development. For this reason, only half a point is awarded.
WEATHER THE STORM
Criterion 18: Do the platforms propose actions that reduce risks?
We need action to reduce the hazards and disaster risks increased by rapid-onset climate-related events — like floods, wildfires, etc — that are already harming communities across Canada.
UCP platform materials include few specific actions to help reduce the risks created by extreme weather. The Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan includes a commitment to conduct “climate vulnerability assessments of the provincial forest, including tree health and wildfire risk” and to “[a]djust all relevant forest management and wildfire management plans to incorporate the knowledge gained through assessments of vulnerability” (p. 52). These vulnerability assessments likely will be useful planning tools, but need to be backed up with financing and concrete policies to ensure that they result in specific actions.
The UCP’s 2023 Budget includes several important new flood protection investments for Alberta communities. This includes $744 million to protect against floods and droughts along the Elbow River in Calgary and other downstream communities (p. 109), and $39 million for flood mitigation and water management in at-risk communities around the province (p. 115).
Half a point is awarded.
Criterion 19: Do the platforms propose actions that protect health & wellbeing, especially for vulnerable regions & people?
Climate change is changing disease patterns, worsening air quality, and increasing risks of water and food-borne contamination. Many factors influence how vulnerable individuals or groups are to the impacts of climate change, including income and social status, support networks, education, and literacy. We need to increase the resilience of people and communities in the face of a broad range of health impacts associated with climate change. This is especially important for vulnerable regions and people in northern, coastal and remote regions, as well as marginalized groups more at risk to the social and economic impacts of climate change.
There is no mention of the connection between human health and extreme weather or climate change in the UCP’s platform materials or Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan. No points are awarded.
Criterion 20: Do the platforms propose actions that help build resilient infrastructure?
Much of our current infrastructure isn’t designed to be resilient in the face of escalating risks of climate related damage and disruption — creating potential for billions in repair and adaptation costs. Meeting our climate goal means building large amounts of new infrastructure, as well as retrofitting existing structures and systems.
There is no mention of creating resilient infrastructure in the UCP’s platform materials or Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan. No points are awarded.
Criterion 21: Do the platforms propose actions that help build resilient infrastructure?
Business and interconnected supply chains need to become more resilient to a changing climate to ensure operations can be sustained in the face of extreme weather. For goods and services we import and export, we need to consider how we can assist vulnerable countries and regions to adapt to climate impacts.
There is no mention of building resilient supply chains in the UCP’s platform materials or Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan. No points are awarded.
Criterion 22: Do the platforms propose actions to advance carbon budgeting?
Our atmosphere has very little capacity left to absorb carbon without further undermining the climate today and for the future. This criterion calls on governments to budget for ’spending‘ this scarce capacity as carefully as we spend our tax dollars. Carbon budgets are a key way to signal to the market the urgency of operating within our very tight atmospheric capacity limits — and therefore sufficiently value actions needed to reduce carbon use.
There is no mention of carbon budgeting in the UCP’s platform materials or Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan. No points are awarded.
Criterion 23: Do the platforms propose actions to empower independent oversight & advice?
Canada has set many climate goals — and failed to meet them. To ensure better accountability, experience in other jurisdictions confirms the value of independent bodies to provide non-partisan and evidence-based advice and monitoring of federal, provincial and territorial climate actions.
The UCP commits to publishing “reports documenting the progress and outcomes of the actions taken as part of the Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan” as part of a broader commitment to “transparency in reporting progress and impacts” (p. 65). To this end, the party proposes to work “collaboratively with partners – including ENGOs, industry, Indigenous organizations, municipalities, labour groups and others” and to “[e]stablish a youth advisory group to provide… young people’s perspectives on addressing environmental issues” (p. 65). The resulting policy and programs will be “evidence-based, including understanding of the environmental, social and economic impacts of policy choices” (p. 65).
These general commitments to oversight and performance reporting are a useful foundation, but would be strengthened if clear accountabilities and timelines were included. Half a point is awarded.
Criterion 24: Do the platforms propose actions to account for climate costs in planning?
Climate risks and costs are not adequately accounted for in decision-making by governments, businesses, or individuals. Changing this will help ensure that decisions reflect the very real costs of choosing not to invest in emissions reduction and adaptation measures. Capturing climate impacts in decision making would be facilitated by more and better data, and by mandatory risk disclosure.
The UCP’s platform materials and Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan do not mention the importance of accounting for climate costs in provincial planning, nor does the party speak to encouraging other sectors to address extreme weather and climate considerations. No points are awarded.