Saturday, June 28, 2008

Former TransAlta executive gets enviromental appointment by Harper government

An appointment made by John Baird on Monday, June 23rd, following the Friday end of the parliamentary session, is coming in for some scrutiny today courtesy of La Presse. The appointment:
Canada's Minister of the Environment, John Baird, today announced the appointment of Robert Page as chair of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE). This appointment is effective immediately.
Page, who has a doctorate from Oxford in international relations, spent ten years between 1997-2007 as the Vice President Sustainable Development of TransAlta corporation. TransAlta, according to Pollution Watch's most recent data on the company, is one of the nation's leading greenhouse gas emitters. This is an appointment, as noted in the La Presse report, that satisfies industry but also has at least one environmental group begrudgingly acknowledging Page's c.v. Page has indicated, however, what his philosophical inclinations are in terms of a government approach to greenhouse gas emissions:
As one of the country's biggest producers of greenhouse gases, Alberta has a lot at stake under the Kyoto Protocol. In search of reductions, Premier Ralph Klein's Conservative government last year established the grandly named agency Climate Change Central to alert Albertans to the issue and promote action by industry. Some heavyweight Alberta companies have started tackling emission counts. Calgary-based Suncor Energy Inc., which extracts petroleum from northern Alberta's oilsands, last month unveiled a $100-million, five-year investment in alternative power sources that could include wind-generated and solar energy projects. TransAlta, a major source of greenhouse gas as it produces about 60 per cent of Alberta's electricity - mainly from coal - claims to have cut emissions by nearly 10 per cent since 1990, to 23.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 1998, the latest available count.

But there's a catch. TransAlta calculates the decline by using investments in clean-energy projects to offset CO2-laden emissions. And the latest steps by Suncor and TransAlta were taken in the hope of earning similar credits in the emissions-trading system that may be part of Canada's national plan. But TransAlta vice-president Robert Page worries that, on the domestic front, federal officials appear to favour "a government-controlled regulatory kind of process" - rather than the free-market, incentives-driven system private industry would prefer. Federal-provincial agreement on emissions trading may be "devilishly difficult" to achieve, says Alberta's Environment Minister Gary Mar. "But all parties involved in the process are committed to resolving the differences."

Maclean's February 21, 2000
Recall that the National Roundtable had come out in favour of a carbon tax in January of this year under its former Chair:
Introducing a new charge on fossil fuels is the only way to ensure Canada succeeds in cutting its emissions, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy said in a report yesterday.

The new charge would mean Canadians would face higher costs to heat and light their homes and to pump gas into their cars, the panel says.

"As long as ... carbon can be emitted freely, it will be extremely challenging, to say the least, to achieve any significant reductions," said Glen Murray, the former Winnipeg mayor who chairs the panel.

"Market-based policies that put a price on carbon to send an economy-wide signal on emissions are the most effective way to achieve deep, long-term greenhouse gas emission reductions of the scale being considered," he told a news conference.
Predictably, Baird quickly dismissed the proposal.

No doubt this new appointment has been in the works for a while, announced once the Parliamentary session ended. It's likely meant to squelch the direction being taken by this government body. A move to be kept in mind in light of the recent introduction of the Liberal proposal.