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What You Missed – Alberta Climate Summit 2016

5 minutes to read

If you were not at the 2016 Alberta Climate Summit, this is what you missed. As a student in attendance with over 500 others at the 2016 Alberta Climate Summit, I witnessed first-hand a growing movement to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges in energy – here at home. 

While that was amazing, the biggest opportunity missed was the chance to win a Tesla for a day. End of story. Chad Park was the lucky winner announced by Ed Whittingham, Executive Director of Pembina.  Chad was nice enough to stick around to the very end before driving away with his new prize so we could all watch enviously.  

If winning a Telsa wasn't reason enough to participate, there were many other reasons.  One of the most informative sessions was about the work being undertaken by the Environmental Defence Fund to adjust regulations and policies to better meet industry needs and ensure that corporations would commit to these new initiatives.  There is a tremendous amount of research taking place and projects being undertaken to address our energy challenges.  One example is around methane, which contributes 25% of warming.  The vast majority of emissions are coming from venting and leaks, and 80% of these, could be repaired on site by an inspector with a wrench. If only all energy issues were this simple. As much as everyone is more interested to hear about innovative and new renewable technologies and initiatives, it is important to recognize and take individual action where, and when, we can.  If we all took action and ownership to do these little things in our own backyard - we would make a huge difference.


Canada Leads on Taking Action

A topic that resonated thoroughly at the summit is the leadership Alberta and Canada is

Climate Summit.jpg
Figure 1: Strategies for a low carbon world Panel
including: Gandeephan Ganeshalingam,
Bernice Lee, and Sara Hastings-Simon as moderator.   

maing in the regulatory field. The scepticism over coal seems to be looming even more nowadays from investors. Regulatory standards set by Alberta has led to remarkable changes globally. Alberta has committed to phasing out coal by 2030, and a 45% reduction in methane. If the world did this it would be the equivalent to shutting 1000 coal plants, a third of the plants in the world for 2.5 cents per unit of C02 reduced. The US commission has faced pressure because of leadership from Canada and, specifically, Alberta for changing regulation. Now, the US, Mexico and, Canada have all agreed to work towards lowering greenhouse gas targets representing 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Something truly remarkable according to Mark Brownstein.                                          

There were also lots of sessions discussing strategies for our low carbon future. Everything from how firms are reducing emissions with carbon constraints to, how climate change is driving regulatory and technological changes that will shape the investment landscape. Here at home, the role of innovation in Alberta is not obvious; change is a constant – especially in the entrepreneurial space. New accelerators and trends from small lifestyle businesses are moving to high tech start-ups. “The days of inventing in the labs are done, we now have to collaborate and partner. Live in our customers shoes to understand their problems.” – Gandeephan Ganeshalingam. Collaboration is quite the buzz term nowadays, however, it is necessary to be successful and agile in this constantly involving energy space.

After lunch the summit broke into parallel sessions; I attended the energy efficiency session where Nova Scotia shared their program for direct and indirect economic benefits of energy efficiency programs. Even though energy may not sound “sexy”, it offers the biggest bang for your buck for cost savings. This is definitely one of the areas where Alberta can improve as we are the only jurisdiction without energy efficiency programs.  

So what did I take away from all of this? Alberta has clearly made, and, is continuing to make important steps to addressing climate change; which was really truly amazing to see this showcased. The summit closed with a speech from a couple high school students who were personally affected by climate change and advocating to all work together.

I was inspired to meet others who are taking action to move towards a more enterprising energy future. It is events like this that bring together all stakeholders from students like myself to government and industry.  That was the theme that resonated throughout the Summit - the importance of collaboration and all stakeholders playing a role at every level.