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Environmentalists pin satirical Fossil of the Day award on Alberta at climate meeting

Activists demonstrate at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. TGE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kamran Jebreili

A global network of environmental groups has given Alberta the rare distinction of being named Fossil of the Day at climate meetings in Dubai. 

The Climate Action Network says the award is given to countries "who are the best at being the worst and doing the most to do the least." 

The network, which includes 2,000 organizations from around the world, usually reserves the award for national governments, said spokeswoman Vicky Coo.

"There was some discussion about making an exception for Alberta because they're such a blocker of climate action," she said Wednesday from Dubai at the United Nations climate summit known as COP28.

Alberta earned the mock honour, said the group, for coming to the meetings with an entourage of oil and gas executives, failing to inform Indigenous communities of leaks from an oilsands mine and pausing approvals for renewable energy.

That was good enough to beat out Norway and its plans to strip-mine the sea floor, as well as South Korea, which is opening large new natural gas fields in its oceans. 

"There was pretty strong enthusiasm from people within Canada and internationally that this was an award Alberta deserved," said Coo. "I don't think (the vote) was super close."

The network hands out its awards every day of the conference. So far, it has singled out New Zealand, the United States and Brazil. 

Ryan Fournier, spokesman for Alberta Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz, who was in Dubai, said Alberta is working to reduce its climate impact.

"Alberta has an effective, common-sense and innovative approach to reducing emissions while keeping energy reliable, secure and affordable," he said in an email. "The province is a world leader in reducing methane emissions, carbon capture utilization and storage and will completely phase out coal-fired electricity generation in 2024."

The Canada Energy Regulator says Alberta is the only province that emits more carbon than it did a decade ago. Canada's overall greenhouse gas emissions between 2014 and 2021 decreased by about seven per cent while Alberta's increased by 13 per cent. 

Since 2005, Alberta's emissions have increased by 49 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. That's more than the 2021 emissions of all Atlantic Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 6, 2023. 

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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