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Budget falls short on climate, water problems: critics

Posted by mhudema on April 23, 2008

By JEREMY LOOME, LEGISLATURE BUREAU

Alberta will spend nearly $1.4 billion over the next three years to address climate change and water issues, but critics say the plans accompanying that spending will leave the province playing catchup.

“We will pursue a leading role in responding to climate change through carbon capture and storage, saving energy, and greener energy production,” said Finance Minister Iris Evans.

Program spending will double in 2008-2009 to $403 million, from $183 million. Much of the total spending, however, isn’t in direct program delivery but in research to develop new technologies such as carbon capture storage. The government will put $155 million of that into the climate change technology fund and $300 million over three years into its water strategy. Direct climate change strategies will receive about $30 million in the coming year.

There is nothing in the budget to suggest the government is moving away from its much-criticized plan to slowly phase in carbon emission reductions over the next 42 years, with carbon capture and storage underground starting somewhere around 2015.

“The real proof is in the pudding and they’ve had theoretically good programs in many respects but then have inadequately funded them,” said NDP leader Brian Mason. “On the environmental side in particular they continue to be badly underfunded. For example, $30 million for climate change strategies just isn’t enough; we need to invest billions of dollars into climate change.”

Comparatively speaking, said Greenpeace’s Mike Hudema, the government is spending $55 million to fight the mountain pine beetle, “and its more rapid proliferation is likely a direct result of global warming. So we’re already spending more fighting the symptoms of the problem than the cause.”

Hudema said the budget’s rosy projection of $1.4 billion in increased spending over three years doesn’t account for the fact that much of the necessary revenue will “come from Alberta companies who are paying into the fund because they can’t even meet the relatively low intensity based targets that are already set out. They’re expecting companies to not even meet some of the lowest standards in the country.”

Liberal leader Kevin Taft said the budget will “cement Alberta’s reputation as being way behind the eight-ball on climate change.”

jeremy.loome@sunmedia.ca

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