The Canadian government has pledged $8 million in federal environmental protection money for Alberta to help fight the effects of climate change, after two years of pressure from environmentalists.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the federal agency that makes environmental assessments, released its first-ever environmental assessment of the oilsands this week, and the announcement comes after months of pressure by Alberta’s environmental community.
In November, Alberta announced that it would close its first two oil sands mines, one of which has been the source of intense protest by environmentalists in recent years.
The closure comes on top of the closure of another major oil sands mine, and a separate one at a terminal in the northeast.
The Alberta government has promised $8.4 million for Alberta’s Environmental Protection Agency to help protect the province from climate change.
“We’re all going to be working together to make it harder for this to happen again,” Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said in a news conference Thursday.
Phillips says the money will be used to pay for environmental protection for the region, and for other areas like fisheries.
Environmentalists have said the government is moving too slowly in protecting the environment from climate-related risks.
They have also argued the money would go to environmental protection efforts rather than climate change mitigation, as some of the funds are directed to.
“The money is going to support efforts like the Environmental Assessment Office, the Environment Conservation Agency, and we’ll be making sure that that continues to be a priority,” said Lisa VanderMeer, director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Centre for Policy Alternatives.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for Alberta.”
Phillips told reporters that she expects the federal government will approve the $8 billion in funds over the next year, but added that she would be willing to look at ways to add additional funding in the future.
“That’s why we’ve been so successful in Alberta,” Phillips said.
“We’ve been very clear that we need to have a plan and we’ve set up a mechanism so that the provinces can make that plan happen.”
Environmentalists were outraged that Alberta’s government had refused to provide an environmental assessment for the first phase of the new oil sands project, which will create nearly 200,000 jobs.
The province has said the project will save up to $1 billion in environmental fees, and that the project would create an economic boon to Alberta.
Alberta’s environmental advocates have criticized the government for not doing enough to protect the environment.
Phillips said the money won’t affect that.
“I don’t think there’s a place for this kind of political pressure to go into,” Phillips told reporters.