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Provincial and Territorial Politics in Canada and Beyond

J19(b) - Energy and Environment Policies and Politics: Balancing Values, Interests and Imperatives

Date: Jun 6 | Time: 01:30pm to 03:00pm | Location: SWING 207

Chair/Président/Présidente : Duane Bratt (Mount Royal University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Duane Bratt (Mount Royal University)

Session Abstract: This session provides an analysis of energy and environment policies and politics in Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, and British Columbia. Special attention is devoted to the challenges faced by various orders of government in balancing or reconciling a wide range of values, interests and imperatives related to various policies and projects.

Alberta: Where Orange Is Not The New Green: Ian Urquhart (University of Alberta)
Abstract: This paper is a case study of provincial environmental policy in Alberta. The specific proxy for “environmental policy” is the climate change measures introduced after the New Democratic Party won a surprising victory in the May 2015 provincial election. The party’s 2015 election platform promised: We will take leadership on the issue of climate change and make sure Alberta is part of crafting solutions with stakeholders, other provinces and the federal government. The paper first explores the extent to which, from 2015 to 2019, Alberta’s New Democrats delivered on this promise. What climate change goals did Premier Notley’s government set and what policy measures were crafted to achieve those goals? The second section considers what factors may have accounted for the Notley government’s climate change goals and the policies implemented to realize those goals. Here the net is cast widely: international oil markets, continuity in the provincial bureaucracy, the economic importance of the fossil fuel industry to the province’s economy and treasury, and intergovernmental factors will be considered. Finally, this paper addresses the overall theme of the CPSA’s 2019 meetings – “All Sides of Things: Speaking Truth to People.” Has the Alberta government spoken truth to people through its claims to be a “world leader” on climate change? Or, like its Conservative predecessors, is it too guilty of what the CPSA website called “presenting untruths as incontrovertible facts.”

How the Battles Over Oil Sands Pipelines Have Transformed Climate Politics: George Hoberg (University of British Columbia)
Abstract: Organized resistance to new fossil fuel infrastructure has become a formidable political force in North America in the 2010s. Climate activists, struggling for influence within the political process, have allied themselves with place-based interests, including indigenous groups, to block new coal plants, coal port expansion, and more recently oil sands pipelines. This paper provides a synthetic overview of a mutli-year research project examining the origins, influence, and challenges of this social movement strategy. It addresses four core research questions: (1) How effective has the strategy of project-based resistance to fossil fuel development been at promoting climate action and the reduction of global warming emissions? (2) Does the strategy risk the unintended consequence of feeding place-based resistance to the clean energy transformation? (3) Is there hope in more innovative processes of regulatory review and facility siting that can promote social acceptance of the rapid transition to the clean energy system but avoid the confrontational politics that have characterized fossil fuel resistance? (4) If innovative approaches have been demonstrated to reduce conflict, why are they so rarely used? Examining the incentive structure of government decision-makers and project proponents will help explain this dilemma and help inform the process reform to facilitate the energy transition. This paper will use process tracing, government documents, and personal interviews to address these questions. It is part of a larger book project on fossil fuel resistance and the transition to sustainable energy.