The Stelmach government has released a climate change strategy for the province that will allow greenhouse gas emissions to steadily rise for another 12 years before beginning a gradual decline.


The cornerstone of the environmental policy will rely on carbon-capture technology that is designed to transport greenhouse emissions from industrial sites through a giant network of pipes, estimated to cost at least $3 billion to build.


Carbon dioxide will then be distributed into the ground, to be stored in bedrock or infused into aging wells to increase their productivity.


Calling the plan “realistic,” Premier Ed Stelmach said Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced to 14 per cent below 2005 levels by 2050.


“There is already more than hot air surrounding the issue of climate change,” he said yesterday. “I’m not going to add to it with empty political rhetoric and targets I know we can’t achieve.”


Alberta’s plan also includes investments in clean energy technology and incentives for consumers, but those details will be announced later.


A government-industry council will study carbon-capture technology and report back in the fall with a final blueprint for its implementation.


Stelmach’s plan, however, was instantly panned by opposition parties and environmental groups, both of which pointed out that the new green targets are actually lower than those recently introduced by the federal government.


“This government has no credibility on climate change,” said Liberal critic David Swann. “I don’t have any confidence that they have a serious commitment to these kinds of changes, and the changes themselves are very modest.”


The New Democrats called carbon-capture technology a “dangerous gamble” since it’s unproven, extremely expensive and carries potential risks to the public.


“The Conservatives have come up with another big mega-project for the oil and gas industry, to build more pipelines and to drill more holes,” said NDP critic David Eggen.


“They’re searching desperately for technology that can let them carry on business as usual, that we can continue with unrestrained growth.”


The government estimates that, if oilsands development is left unchecked and continues to expand, Alberta’s emissions will nearly double over the next 40 years.