By Mike De Souza
CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The environment minister of Alberta, the province where the oil sands industry is Canada's fastest growing source of carbon emissions, says the days of denying climate change are over.
The minister, Shannon Phillips, told a conference on Wednesday that the New Democratic Party provincial government elected in May was taking action after Alberta's climate change record had been targeted by North American environmental groups in recent years.
Alberta, the biggest source of U.S. oil imports, has also faced international criticism for what has been perceived as lax oversight of extraction and production of fossil fuels.
"There is a great appetite for action on climate change in our province," Phillips said at a conference hosted in Edmonton by the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based environmental group. "The days of denial are over."
Phillips, whose party ended 44 consecutive years of Conservative rule in the western Canadian province, said at a news conference that Alberta needed to consider new action, including the possibility of tougher vehicle emissions standards, to avoid having the worst air quality in Canada.
While she noted that 30 percent of Alberta's economy is based on fossil fuels such as the oil sands, she said that it must also remain competitive as the rest of the world is looking to transition to a lower carbon economy.
In June, Phillips increased the cost of greenhouse gas emissions for large industrial plants and boosted targets for cutting heat-trapping emissions that warm the atmosphere. She later appointed a panel to advise the government about a long-term climate change plan.
Alberta also released new data on Wednesday showing that air pollution was increasing in several regions of the province and was close to exceeding new national air quality standards adopted in recent years across Canada.
(Reporting By Mike De Souza; Editing by Grant McCool)