On the floor of the House Andrew Weaver spoke to his motion to amend the Throne Speech, highlighting the government’s inconsistency in greenhouse gas targets. Under the province’s climate targets the legislated goal is to reduce emissions from the current 62 megatons of carbon pollution to 43 megatons by 2020 and 13 megatons by 2050. Producing liquefied natural gas through five plants would add 73 megatons to current provincial emissions, making our greenhouse gas targets impossible to keep.
The government has stated LNG exports from BC will reduce Asian, especially China’s, dependency on coal fired power generation, therefore reducing their carbon emissions. If we are serious about reducing global emissions then a better plan would be to halt exports of thermal coal through BC. Doing so would have little impact on provincial employment, or revenue, as the vast majority is produced from US mines.
Transcript: Speech from the floor of the House
“With the 2014 Speech from the Throne the British Columbia Government has once again conveyed its goal of creating jobs, controlling spending and building an economy that is not erected on the backs of future generations.
Like the government, I too believe this is possible. In fact, I believe that the long-term economic prosperity of BC will ultimately depend on us meeting this goal. It will depend on our ability to transition our economy to one that meets the needs of today without sacrificing the welfare of future generations.
However, with this belief comes my assertion that we are not yet there — that there is more to be done — a lot more to be done. We need a vision coupled to a concrete plan of action to get us there.
In 2008, we had such a vision for this economy. It manifested itself alongside the Climate Action Plan and with its inception, we as a province set out on a new path. We — British Columbians — led not only our country, but our continent as we found innovative ways to begin the transition to a strong, low-carbon economy.
In 2008 we had a plan to transition ourselves to this economy—one that was grounded in evidence and accountable to clear, measurable targets. The goal was to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 33% below 2007 levels by 2020. We were on track to achieve this goal. However, under the vision of the current throne speech, I am afraid to say, we will certainly fail.
When I respond to the Budget, I will elaborate on this concern.
Today, however, I would like to focus on the government’s bold assertion that LNG development is “the greatest single step we can take to fight climate change.”
According to the Throne Speech, LNG production could reduce China’s emissions by over 90 megatons per year. Leaving aside the fact that no credible international climate body would offer greenhouse gas reduction credits to a jurisdiction for producing greenhouse gases, let’s still look at the overall numbers.
In 2011 BC emitted 62 megatons of carbon pollution. Our legislated goal is to reduce our provincial emissions to 43 megatons by 2020 and to 13 megatons by 2050.
If LNG is to decrease China’s emissions by 90 megatons per year, we will have to produce it. What this means is that while China could decrease its emissions, we will certainly increase ours. The question is: How much will our own emissions increase and how will this affect our own, provincially legislated climate targets?
According to the Pembina Institute, if we are to meet the government’s revenue projections from LNG, we would need at least 5 LNG plants. These plants would emit roughly 73 megatons of carbon pollution each year. That is nearly double our 2020 target and more than 5 times our 2050 target.
What does this all mean? Selling LNG to China so that it might decrease its carbon emissions means that we in BC will have no choice but to throw our own targets out the window. Forget the laws. Forget the rhetoric. The science says it’s impossible. We will be throwing away the certainty of our own climate targets for the possibility of theirs.
If we are to walk away from leadership—if we are to turn our backs on our climate targets and ignore the laws we set for ourselves—what does that say about our resolve in the face of adversity?
In 2008 we boldly committed to address one of the greatest challenges of our time. In 2014, it would seem we have boldly committed to perpetuate it, if not accentuate it.
Just this past week John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, was in Indonesia where he described global warming as “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”. He further stated, and I quote: “Terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction: all challenges that know no borders,” and I quote again “The reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them.”
As Britain dealt with historical floods across its nation, The Guardian Newspaper celebrated Valentines day with a Front Page Story by Sir Nicholas Stern entitled: “Climate change is here now. It could lead to global conflict. Yet the politicians squabble.”
Floods in Calgary and Britain, record droughts in California and Vancouver Island, record breaking heat and fires in Australia, devastation in the Philippines from typhoon Haiyan and in New York from Hurricane Sandy. The list is growing and the problem is getting more and more serious.
And I reiterate: YET THE POLITICIANS SQUABBLE.
Look around this chamber and ask yourselves what you and your caucuses are doing to address this, the greatest challenge of our time. Are you cheerleaders for the fossil fuel industry and the BC LNG pipedream? Are you so busy playing the game of gotcha politics that you’ve lost touch with the reason why you are here?
Coming back to the LNG plan outlined in the throne speech, there is another issue. If we are to double down on LNG exports and consider them for their impact on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, what about our other exports that increase global greenhouse gas emissions? Will they be counted as well or will they be conveniently left out of the calculations?
Let me offer just one example: Thermal coal.
Right now BC exports 20 megatons of thermal coal each year. The vast majority of this coal is shipped in from the US and Alberta and does not contribute to BC jobs the way metallurgical coal does. Washington, Oregon and California—our partners in the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy—have so far sad ‘no’ to thermal coal exports. With their export limits in place, American producers are looking for new export ports and so over the next 2 years we will see a 20 megaton increase in thermal coal exports through BC. That’s a total of 40 megatons of thermal coal each year between the existing and proposed expansion of exports.
If we are to boast that LNG exports would be “the greatest single step we can take to fight climate change”—that they could decrease Chinese emissions by 90 megatons each year—then we must also consider how much our other exports increase global carbon emissions.
If we look at reliable, scientific estimates, the 40 megatons of thermal coal we will be exporting will add over 100 megatons of carbon pollution to our atmosphere each year. The fact is, while we could possibly reduce Chinese emissions by 90 megatons, we will certainly increase emissions from coal exports to 100 megatons. Forget 90 megatons in savings—we will have just increased net global emissions by 10 megatons from coal exports alone.
To be clear, I am not suggesting we ban coal exports or in any way limit our metallurgical coal industry. I am talking specifically about the expansion of thermal coal exports that originate outside our province. When those are factored in, the numbers just don’t add up.
I therefore stand today to introduce an amendment to the motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
I do not introduce this amendment as a matter of confidence in the government. I introduce it as a contribution to the debate about the consistency of the government’s vision of an economy that does not unnecessarily burden future generations.
The current motion stands as:
“We, Her Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, in session assembled, beg leave to thank Your Honour for the gracious speech which your Honour has addressed to us at the opening of the present session,”
To this, I would like to add the following amendment:
“and that the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, recognizes that climate change is one of the greatest issues facing our Province and that this government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is inconsistent with the current expansion of United States sourced thermal coal exports coming through British Columbia harbours, and therefore calls upon this government to follow the lead of our Pacific Coast Action Plan Partners, Washington, Oregon and California, and explore all means by which the government may halt the expansion of thermal coal exports in British Columbia.”
For the government to claim credit for their LNG export emissions, the government would have to undergo a massive effort to systematically account for all emissions from exports, whether increasing or decreasing global emissions. If the government wants to persist with this approach to global emissions reductions, then a starting point would be to halt the increase in thermal coal exports. Anything short of this would be inconsistent and irresponsible.
The government could try and hide behind claims that coal exports and rail transport fall within federal jurisdiction, but the reality is that there is much that the province can do.
The vision laid out in this amendment could be incorporated into the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate Change and Energy within its mandate to Harmonize 2050 targets for greenhouse gas reductions and cooperate with national and sub-national governments around the world to press for an international agreement on climate change in 2015. Our partners in the Action Plan are already leading the way on thermal coal expansion. We could join them in their leadership.
Building a strong economy that meets the needs of today without sacrificing the welfare of future generations isn’t easy. It asks of us the audacity to find new ways to build our economy by investing in low-carbon sectors. It requires of us the resolve to meet our legislated targets, even in the face of adversity. It calls on us to be consistent, from one sector to the next, from 2008 through to 2050 and beyond.
Let us demonstrate that audacity, that resolve and that consistency here today. And let us take our next step together and begin with a conversation about thermal coal, before it’s too late. ”