EDMONTON - A live audience heckled and booed Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith at a leader's debate Thursday after she said she isn't convinced that climate change is real.
Smith, the front-runner in the race to become Alberta's next premier, was poised and unflappable despite the deafening jeers from the crowd.
"We've been watching the debate in the scientific community, and there is still a debate," Smith said. "I will continue to watch the debate in the scientific community, but that's not an excuse not to act."
Smith said she is frustrated by the climate change debate because politicians set impossibly high targets then do nothing to achieve them. She said the Wildrose will take a different approach, putting in place "constructive policies" that reduce overall emissions.
"Having consumer rebates, so people can make home renovations, do energy audits, switch to micro-generation, get a new hybrid vehicle or natural gas, switch to natural gas powered electricity," she said. "All of these things will have a really positive impact on reducing greenhouse gases, reducing overall toxic emissions and also saving Albertans a little bit of money."
She also chastised the Progressive Conservatives for wasting $2 billion on the province's carbon capture and storage program.
Her political opponents piled on.
"Rebates are not going to fix this problem," NDP Leader Brian Mason said. "The science is completely settled. The only people who are disputing it are the phoney scientists funded by the oil industry.
"We need to get serious about it, and we need to have some hard caps on (carbon) emissions. We need to move away from coal-fired electricity generation and we need to fund transit in a big way in this province. ... Denying the science of climate change is just foolish."
Progressive Conservative Leader Alison Redford said denying climate change will undermine Alberta's reputation on the global stage.
"When I go to Washington, and I talk to people in the White House, on Capitol Hill, and I'm trying to talk to them about why we need Keystone, they don't want to hear that I don't believe in climate change.
"They want to know that they have a premier and a leader from our province who understand that this impacts our markets, this impacts our investors, and if we don't take it seriously it's going to impact our economy and our way of life."
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the province must put a real price on carbon.
"If we put a real price on carbon, and have the big emitters decrease to 50,000 tonnes a year instead from 100,000, we will generate $1.8 billion a year four years from now," Sherman said. "Half of that goes to industry to green their technology, half of it goes to municipalities on a per-capita basis to green their transportation."
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the Alberta Party acknowledge that climate change is real and proposed a move away from coal-fired electricity and increased emissions standards and steps to more prudently manage water.
A Pembina Institute study released in December said all of Alberta's climate-change strategies put together will cut emissions by 14 megatonnes by 2020, less than one-third of the goal of 50 megatonnes.
The institute issued six recommendations, including a substantial increase to the price of carbon (to $30 per tonne from $15) and requiring companies to pay tax on all of the carbon they emit — not just the current 12 per cent.
The institute also called on the government to "moderate the rate of approval" for new oilsands facilities and to implement stringent, mandatory greenhouse gas intensity standards for those that are approved.
Edmonton Journal, Fri Apr 20 2012
Byline: Karen Kleiss