Alberta energy experts talk climate crisis ahead of COP26

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Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This story is part of a CBC News initiative entitled Our Changing Planet to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it.

As national leaders head to the United Nations climate change conference, three Alberta experts weighed in on what that means for a province known for its oil and gas industry.

Canada will send a delegation to COP26 in Glasgow on Sunday.

Ahead of that, CBC's Rob Brown hosted a panel with Marg McCuaig-Boyd, Alberta's former energy minister, Samir Kayande, business strategy consultant and energy analyst, and Ed Whittingham, a clean energy consultant.

  • WATCH: Alberta experts discuss province's role in climate change ahead of COP26 in above video

"Alberta, to be clear, is doing some good things. It could be doing more," Whittingham says.

He says moves in the right direction include putting a price on carbon pollution, and regulations to reduce methane emissions, along with a coal phaseout commitment.

But he says the province needs a climate plan that has targets consistent with the Paris Agreement — the leading international agreement to limit global warming to well below 1.5 to two degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

"It needs to take stronger steps to reduce emissions in the oil and gas sector and frankly, follow the lead of many of the oil and gas players right now. Many have committed to net zero reducing their emissions," Whittingham said.

But oil and gas companies still need a return on investment, Kayande says, especially as investment in oil and gas does not follow the increase in prices.

"When you're talking about environmental projects, that has to be determined by some sort of a government overarching pricing or a carbon restriction that keeps going down over time. You know, something that that company can point to and say, 'Look, this actually makes money in the short run.'"

McCuaig-Boyd says Alberta needs to put more policies in place to ensure more clean tech is invested in.

"We produce a lot of carbon and there's so many things, so many opportunities we could be looking at to utilize that carbon. And really diversification, I think, is the key in Alberta," McCuaig-Boyd said.

She said the province needs a climate leadership plan that includes all sectors.

"Not just oil and gas … what's the plan look like for wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, all of the different ones?"

The Conference of Parties (COP) meets every year and is the global decision-making body set up in the early 1990s to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and subsequent climate agreements.

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