Can Alberta lead on lowering emissions?

The article Can Alberta lead on lowering emissions? Written by Chad Park, Executive Director of The Natural Step Canada, was originally published in the Edmonton Journal.


This week, international and provincial leaders from science, policy, clean technology, industry and government will gather in Edmonton for Zero 2014, a conference focused on driving the transition to a low-carbon future.

Observers might be forgiven for doing a double take upon reviewing the program. This event is happening in Alberta?

For many outside the province, the notion of Alberta talking about a low-carbon future is highly counterintuitive.

As a native Edmontonian who has spent much of my career outside Alberta, I know only too well how wide the gulf can be between the way Albertans see themselves and the province’s reputation on this issue.

What many outside the province don’t know about Alberta is that there is a groundswell of research, innovation, and leading-edge sustainable development practice taking place at many levels in the province, emanating from the vibrancy of the place and the character of its people.

A global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is one of the greatest challenges of our age.

It also has obvious strategic importance for Alberta — both because of the very real risks that climate change pose for the province and because of the link between those emissions and the industries that power its dynamic economy.

The Journal recently reported that research by the Canada West Foundation revealed that more than half the population of Western Canada no longer believes that government or industry is “striking the right balance between economic benefits and environmental protection.”

The language of “balance” often dominates how these issues are discussed.

In fact, our challenge is greater than finding the hypothetical sweet spot to balance the environmental, social and economic factors involved in the energy industry.

Rather, it’s about finding a way to weave all three of those concerns into a single, integrated strand that will carry us into a prosperous and sustainable future.

What we need now is a global transition from the energy system of today to the energy system that the future requires of us.

As stewards of so many of the precious resources that drive today’s energy system, Albertans are in a unique position of both responsibility and opportunity in shaping that future system.

Contrary to the dominant narrative that creates headlines on the national and international stage, this does not have to be a story about good guys and bad guys.

In its place could be a story about transition, about innovative people working together to harness their collective capabilities and assets to build the energy system that the future requires.

Zero 2014 seems to signal that this is a conversation Albertans are ready for — even a conversation they are prepared to lead.

If that’s the case, I know I speak for many when I say, “Count us in.”

Nothing could be more energizing and inspiring than working together on a grand challenge that matters so much and that will make our children proud.

Chad Park is executive director of The Natural Step Canada and curator of the Alberta Energy Futures Lab. Zero 2014, a conference running Tuesday through Thursday at the Shaw Conference Centre, focuses on a low-carbon future and is hosted in partnership between the Climate Change and Emissions Management (CCEMC) Corporation and the City of Edmonton.

Source: Edmonton Journal