April 22nd was World Earth Day, so this month I’d like to take the opportunity to highlight the impressive record of Alberta’s government on environmental conservation. Few of you may know this, but our Government has invested an unprecedented amount of time and money into conservation initiatives in the past two years.
Those of us living in beautiful Banff- Kananaskis understand how important it is to balance economic growth and job creation with environmental protection and sustainability. The Rocky Mountains that we call home have always made our province a uniquely attractive destination for both business and tourism investment. Aside from being a low-tax, low-regulation jurisdiction, employers know that doing business in Alberta will guarantee their employees a high quality of life full of recreation opportunities in the great outdoors. Preserving and promoting our beautiful wilderness is inherently good for our economy, and that’s why I’m so proud of our government’s work to strengthen and diversify Alberta’s economy by investing in the conservation of our environment.
Since taking office in 2019, we have invested over $10 million to conserve 55,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land across the province. We have also invested $15 million into our beloved Kananaskis Country and unveiled a new Conservation Pass for the Park, all proceeds of which will go directly into revitalizing conservation initiatives and infrastructure investments to minimize human impact. We have formed 170 partnerships with environmental organizations and not-for-profits to help us better manage the many provincial parks across the province that we all enjoy, and have doubled the size of a wildland provincial park in northeast Alberta to make it the single largest area of protected boreal forest in the entire world. On top of all this, we have hired 20 new conservation officers dedicated solely to protecting our Eastern Slopes.
But as stated above, there is more to environmental sustainability in Alberta than just conservation. Investing in environmental initiatives can also provide tremendous opportunities for economic diversification.
Recently, our Government announced that we would be moving our provinces towards a more circular economy and establishing an Extended Producer Responsibility program. This will shift the cost burden of recycling off municipal taxpayers and onto the private companies who produce single-use products, while also ensuring that these products are reused, recycled, and remanufactured right in Alberta. This change is expected to grow recycling into a $148 million industry in Alberta and create hundreds of jobs.
We have also worked with renewable energy providers to create an attractive market for green investment within the province. This has been done primarily through cutting red tape to allow green energy providers the opportunity to thrive and compete in the general energy market, making Alberta the only open power market in the entire country allowing for large unsubsidized corporate investments. Since making these changes, over $2.4 billion of private investment into solar, wind power, hydrogen, and cogeneration has been injected into our economy. Our renewable energy market is now projected to lead Canada in growth this year and outpace the entire country in the growth of renewable electricity usage.
Finally, to summate all of this work, we also established the position of an Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Secretariat in Budget 2021. ESG criteria have become highly influential in modern financial institutions and are used to sway investors on large decisions. Alberta’s businesses and industry adhere to the highest environmental standards in the world, and they have an incredible story about innovation, entrepreneurship, and care for our environment that deserves to be told. This new ESG Secretariat will work to promote our province as the best place on earth for investment in increasingly environmentally conscious capital markets.
With all our conservation and green energy initiatives, Alberta’s government is demonstrating to the world that we take environmental sustainability seriously and are committed to strengthening our economy for today while preparing for the economy of tomorrow.
By Miranda Rosin, MLA