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Oil-rich Alberta brings climate message to New York

Provincial environment minister to speak at annual climate conference one week after ribbon-cutting for a multimillion-dollar oil sands expansion project.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Oil-rich Alberta brings climate message to New York
Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips brings a message of climate awareness to an annual summit under way in New York. Photo courtesy of the provincial government of Alberta

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Normally lauded for its oil reserves, a minister from Canada's Alberta province said she's taking a message of climate change action to a New York conference.

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips arrives Tuesday in New York to deliver remarks during the annual Climate Week conference, which takes place alongside the regular meeting for the U.N. General Assembly.

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Speaking ahead of her arrival, the minister said Alberta can lay claim to a track record of climate stewardship.

"As our province lowers emissions, creates jobs and diversifies the economy, it is crucial we learn from other jurisdictions about new ways to make life better for Albertans," she said in a statement.

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Along with much of the Canadian economy, Alberta is adding layers of diversity with low-carbon ambitions. Solar power in the province doubled in 2015 thanks in part to municipal and farm-area incentive programs. Since a municipal rebate program was launched last year, Alberta said 28 new solar installations have been financed.

Alberta estimates its residential and commercial solar program could support as many as 900 new jobs in the solar power sector by 2019. The province relies heavily on the oil industry, but counts renewables as part of a broader economic recovery agenda.

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Alberta's economy was hammered last year by the dual strains from lower crude oil prices and wildfires that swept through the heart of the provincial oil sector. About 1 million barrels of oil per day were sidelined by fires centered in the Fort McMurray region.

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The provincial government forecast growth in terms of gross domestic product for 2017 at 3.1 percent, up from the budget forecast of 2.65 percent. With a push for diversification under way, non-energy exports were up 7.1 percent in the first half of the year.

Last week, Alberta Premier Rachel Notely attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the start of a $1.6 billion (USD) expansion project led by Japan Canada Oil Sands Ltd. At its Hangingstone project in Fort McMurray, the expansion will use steam to help improve oil production from the current rate of 1,000 barrels per day to 20,000 barrels per day by the middle of next year.

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