Loading articles...

Alberta government won't seek meeting with teen enviro-activist Greta Thunberg

Swedish activist and student Greta Thunberg walks off the stage after addressing the Climate Strike in Montreal on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. The Alberta government won't seek out a meeting with teen Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, but Environment Minister Jason Nixon says he hopes she takes the time to learn about the province's oil and gas industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

EDMONTON — The Alberta government won’t seek out a meeting with teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, but Environment Minister Jason Nixon said he hopes the Swedish girl takes time to learn about the province’s oil and gas industry.

“I think when you look at some of Miss Thunberg’s comments, she doesn’t understand our province, that she doesn’t understand the reality that to accomplish climate change goals worldwide, we need Alberta as part of that solution,” Nixon told reporters Tuesday.

“We have the most environmentally friendly place in the world to produce oil and gas products.”

Thunberg has been making international headlines, meeting with leaders and leading protests demanding governments take action to address climate change and its resulting catastrophic weather events.

The 16-year-old Stockholm student is currently touring North America and took to social media on the weekend to say she will be visiting Alberta in the coming days. She didn’t say when or what she will be doing.

Her media co-ordinator, Connor Turner, said in an email that he could not provide details of her itinerary.

NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley urged Alberta’s United Conservatives to meet with Thunberg as part of a larger commitment to embrace climate change as a reality and to do something about it.

“While I obviously don’t agree with every prescription that Greta is proposing, I definitely do agree that we have a (climate change) problem and we need to take that problem seriously,” Notley said.

“We need to be leaders. We don’t need to be cowards. What’s happening right now, by blaming everybody else, our premier is being a coward.”

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi have both said they would meet with Thunberg to discuss their climate initiatives.

Thunberg has become a lightning rod of debate over climate change, being lauded as a plain-speaking trailblazer and vilified as a misguided melodramatic doomsayer.

In Alberta, she will find herself in the vortex of an increasingly angry and polarized debate: how to meet and prosper from the reality of a present-day carbon economy while embracing a greener, low carbon future.

Premier Jason Kenney and his government have blamed the federal government and the previous NDP government in Alberta for impeding pipelines and driving down oil and gas investment.

The province has launched a $30-million war room and a public inquiry targeting those they believe are funding and encouraging eco-protesters to shut down Alberta’s nest-egg industry.

It has also killed much of a climate change plan brought in by Notley, which included a consumer carbon tax, shutting down coal-fired electricity generation and moving to more renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

Kenney’s government said the solution is technology, and in the coming weeks his government will introduce a new plan to tax large-scale greenhouse gas emitters to fund technological innovation.

Notley said what Kenney and his United Conservatives should not do is further polarize the debate as they did two weeks ago, when demonstrators marched on the legislature as part of a global day of action on climate change.

No one from the government spoke and staff in the premier’s communications office put signs up in windows saying “I Love Canadian Oil and Gas.”

The NDP labelled the signs a juvenile stunt. The signs remain in the windows.

Notley said if that happens again with Thunberg, the UCP won’t be able to undo the bad press it will create.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2019.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press