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Economy vs. Environment: Some question Alberta delegation's motivation at COP27

There are still questions about how emissions targets will impact Alberta as a provincial delegation returns from the world's largest climate change summit.

Environment Minister Sonya Savage led a five-person team to Egypt last week for the COP27 conference.

Before leaving, Savage told CTV News she would be going to represent Alberta interests, as she didn't trust the federal government to do so.

The province has repeatedly said current national emissions targets are too ambitious.

Savage believes they will hurt Alberta's No. 1 industry and, on a larger scale, its entire economy.

"We need to have an honest conversation about balancing climate policy with energy and food security," she wrote in a Financial Post op-ed.

"This means connecting the question of emission reduction targets with an understanding of the technology and economic costs required to get there."

But as Savage gets set to return home, many experts argue profit will eventually have to take a back seat to climate goals.

That could put the province in a tricky spot.

"The Alberta government has a lot at stake here," the Pembina Institute's Chris Severson-Baker said.

"As the world tackles climate change, we are an oil and gas producing jurisdiction, and that product is simply not wanted going forward. (So) as the demand declines, they need to dramatically reduce the emissions associated with producing that oil."


The single largest contributor of national greenhouse gas emissions is the energy sector.

In 2019, it accounted for more than a quarter of Canada's output.

Ottawa wants to cut that by more than 40 per cent by 2030.

"But Alberta has no plan to reduce its emissions," Calgary doctor and COP27 attendee Joe Vipond said.

"They are putting up a resistance."

The province's industry can boast of success in carbon capture and methane reduction, and on Monday, Savage announced a $50-million initiative to help the sector cut emissions.

Experts call those important steps.

But provincial output is – and likely still will be – massive.

"Countries still need (energy) and it's vital," Severson-Baker said.

"But they're actively working to reduce the need for it from a climate and security perspective. I don't think anybody can go to COP and not hear that message loud and clear."


But "pushing" the economic case for emissions – as Vipond says – may be a conundrum on its own.

Canada's parliamentary officer says the effects of climate change bit a $20-billion hole out of Canada's economy last year.

His office issued a new analysis looking at the economic impacts of climate change over the next 80 years, which shows hurt if the world's changes continue to accelerate.


CTV News has been trying all week to connect with the delegation to talk about Alberta's goals at the summit.

On Thursday, Savage's press secretary said the minister was in transit and unable to speak.

He instead sent part of her Egypt agenda.

The conference in Sharm El Sheikh ends on Friday. Top Stories

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