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Premier touts plan on climate

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WASHINGTON—Alberta’s new premier began her campaign to rehabilitate the reputation of her province’s oilsands in the United States, where it was battered by the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline.

Rachel Notley walked a Washington audience through the climate-change measures taken by her new NDP government.

She also described her province as home to nature-lovers who care about the environment and about being good global citizens.

“I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about our province, especially the oilsands,” Notley told an audience from Johns Hopkins University yesterday.

“Quite frankly, it is possible some of it might not have been very positive.

“But I am proud to say that over the course of the last year, since my government has been in office, Alberta’s environmental reputation has started to change,” she noted.

“And, I believe, change for the better.”

Opposition to the oilsands grew during the years-long Keystone debate, as it went from relative anonymity among the general U.S. public to becoming protesters’ preferred poster child for the high-carbon economy.

Notley said previous Conservative governments in Ottawa and Edmonton didn’t help matters by foot-dragging on the climate file.

In an interview, she explained the goal for her three-day U.S. visit was to start changing perceptions.

She told audiences about her NDP government’s $30-a-tonne carbon tax, her plan to phase out coal, and the 100 million-tonne cap on oilsands emissions that she said is one-third of some previous long-term emissions projections.

And that, she said, will force the industry to innovate if it wants to grow.

There’s one point Notley didn’t emphasize: that neither Alberta’s efforts, nor the federal government’s, would at this point help Canada meet its emissions targets.

Alberta’s emissions would not really drop under her plan. They’d grow slower than projected; then stop growing within a few years; and finally decline, landing around current levels in 2030.

Notley said she knows perceptions won’t change overnight.

“If I leave here with people going, ‘Oh, isn’t Alberta doing something that maybe we should take a look at, maybe even learn from, and they’re kind of doing the right stuff now,’ then that’s a win,” she said in an interview yesterday.

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