Today in the committee stage I engaged in a series of questions and answers with the Minister of Environment during committee stage of Bill 19 — Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Amendment Act, 2016. As I noted earlier at second reading, Bill 19 represents the latest in the ongoing litany of BC Liberal giveaways in a desperate attempt to land a single LNG final investment decision despite that fact that there is a global glut of natural gas on the market.
Below are the text and video of my exchange with the Minister of Environment.
A. Weaver: I’m wondering, with respect to the implementation of this, what timeline the government is thinking that LNG facilities will start to develop and whether or not they expect any LNG facility to actually trigger a compliance period before 2020.
Hon. M. Polak: In terms of implementation, we anticipate having regulations completed and drafted late 2016, early 2017. With respect to the member’s other question around the likelihood of operations being in place, I’ll leave that for the Minister of Natural Gas Development. We’ll retain our role as the regulator.
A. Weaver: My question back to the minister is this. Legislation will be ready and regulations will be ready — 2016, 2017, say. Does the minister expect there to be an LNG facility taking up these regulations before 2020? It’s a very clear question.
These regulations would not be put in place if there was not a very specific reason to put them in place. The specific question is: why are we doing this now? Who is coming, and what is the timeline by which government thinks an LNG facility will make a final investment decision such that these regulations will be triggered?
Hon. M. Polak: As the regulator, I’m not involved in discussions with respect to final investment decisions that industry players may make.
We have seen, in terms of the realm of approvals…. We know that Tilbury is certainly on its way. We know that Woodfibre has received both a certificate from ourselves and also from the federal government. We don’t know what the federal government position is going to be with respect to PNW.
Again, we operate from the regulatory side. In terms of what decision-making is occurring around boardroom tables, that’s not in my purview.
A. Weaver: The answer was, clearly, that the senior minister within government doesn’t really know. That leads me to the next question then. If the government is putting in place regulations along this line and is expecting — perhaps maybe, but we don’t really know — some proponents to take it up, my question is this. Will the minister be introducing legislation to repeal the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act this session? If anybody takes this up, they will need to do that.
Hon. M. Polak: I apologize. I was listening, but I don’t quite understand what the member is asking about repealing.
A. Weaver: To clarify, if a proponent were to take up this new legislation and the compliance period were to be enacted or a transitional compliance period were to be entered into, then we know that the 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target that is a matter of law in British Columbia — that we are to reduce emissions by 33 percent — will not be possible.
In introducing this legislation, it’s critical that the government introduce parallel legislation to repeal the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act, which is currently a matter of law. The question to the minister is this: when will she be introducing legislation to repeal the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act? You can’t have your cake and eat it to. You introduce this. You repeal that. When will that be occurring?
Hon. M. Polak: There’s no intention at this stage to introduce such legislation, and here’s why. Firstly, the member knows from the climate leadership team report that we’re well aware that we are not on track to meet our 2020 targets. That’s no surprise. It’s something that myself and the Premier have spoken about many times in public.
But we’ve also talked about the importance of considerations around the current climate leadership team’s recommendations. Those recommendations are modelled on the premise of having two operating LNG facilities newly operating in British Columbia. They present a very challenging set of recommendations, but those recommendations are being wrestled with.
To the question of if the answer to not meeting the 2020 target is to repeal the legislation, the best example I can provide is what happens when there are challenges faced in the world of budgeting. We have a law in British Columbia that requires us to balance the budget. When we don’t manage to do that, and occasionally, that occurs — it certainly occurred when we had the financial downturn most recently — we don’t repeal the balanced budget legislation. We have to work to get back on track.
How will we address the existing 2020 target in law? I’m not aware of any decision with respect to that having been reached. It’s something that we will have to determine as we proceed with our new climate action plan.
A. Weaver: It’s not only the 2020 target; it’s the 2050 target. And with respect, hon. Chair, through you to the minister, you cannot meet the 80 percent reduction by 2050 with two large LNG plants. Unless everybody in the province of British Columbia simply stops driving cars, it is factually incorrect to argue that you can, and the Climate Action Team did not say that you could.
The reality is that these targets need to be repealed. The reality is that this government is misleading British Columbians, inadvertently, maybe — I wonder — and this government needs to be honest. It needs to be honest with them that this legislation, continuing the generational sellout, is essentially throwing aside our plans to reduce greenhouse gases by yet another loophole, the transition period.
If any proponent were to take up this transition period and have a free rein, essentially, on greenhouse gas emissions, the 2020 target is out of the window. The government has yet to say what they are going to do with greenhouse gases to meet some other 2020 target. The government has no plan on greenhouse gas reductions. The government is full of hot air about the climate file, and the government is an embarrassment internationally in terms of what it has not done anymore on the climate action file.
My question to the minister, one last time, is: when does the government believe that proponents of LNG will actually make final investment decisions, and is the government actually stalling any climate leadership because it’s waiting to see whether an LNG facility will come or not?
Hon. M. Polak: Well — a lot to cover there. Firstly, there is no free ride. There is no free ride. They will still have to monitor and report and be responsible and pay for their emissions over that time period. The first reporting period is simply allowed to extend for a maximum of six months more. There you go. That’s all the magic in it. They don’t get a free ride.
With respect to the Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations, they’re there for all to see, and they certainly would put us on a path to meeting our 2050 targets. And they do include the operation of LNG facilities.
We also had, in terms of our climate file, some rather good news just delivered to us, and it was a little unexpected because we know that our trajectory recently has been more challenging in emissions. But on April 14, I believe, the National Inventory Report came out and actually showed that we have seen a slight decline in our emissions. So that’s a positive. But we still have an awful lot of work to do.
The fact is, though, that this change, the new entrant period, does not change the obligations that these companies have to comply with their requirements. I know that the member certainly is not supportive of the industry, and that’s fair enough, but it’s wrong to say that what this does is give companies a free ride. It does not.
A. Weaver: I’ve never said I’m not supportive of the industry. What I have said is I’m not supportive of hype and giving away a generational resource to foreign international companies at essentially no benefit to British Columbians.
My question on this topic, then, directly to the minister, is: which reporting are you talking about for fugitive emissions? The federal number or the B.C. number? They don’t match. Are you talking about the national inventory fugitive emissions or the B.C. fugitive emissions? Nobody quite knows, when the B.C. government talks about emissions reductions, which one number they are using, because the numbers don’t match up.
Hon. M. Polak: In this case, I’m not talking about simply the emissions from fugitive emissions. I’m talking about the National Inventory Report with respect to British Columbia’s overall emissions.
A. Weaver: But that number depends on an overall reduction based on a number. One of those numbers is fugitive emissions, and the fugitive emission number federally is different from the number used provincially. So my question is: which number is the right number, and which number does the province use when it’s actually doing its calculations in terms of greenhouse gas reductions?
Hon. M. Polak: The member will know that this has been a long-standing problem, not just for British Columbia but other provinces as well. There is a different set of numbers that is utilized by the federal government, by various provinces.
In fact, it is one of the important pieces of work that is being undertaken currently within the federal process, our officials meeting with federal officials — it’s happening between other provinces and the federal government as well — to arrive at a standard means by which we can measure and report emissions across all sectors.
In this case, what I was pointing to is completely the federal numbers and their report that shows we have seen a slight decrease recently in our emissions.
A. Weaver: The minister just admitted that the minister does not know which overall number should be used in discussing emissions reductions. In essence, what we’re hearing is that the ministry is essentially saying: “We don’t know what we’re reducing because we don’t know what number we should use.”
My question to the minister is: when are we going to have the answer to this?
Hon. M. Polak: The difference between the two is based on the fact that the federal government has a different threshold for reporting, for one. Theirs is 50,000; ours is 10,000. Therefore, we capture more of the data, which is likely the reason why it appears we have more accurate information with respect to our emissions from these facilities than the federal government would have. Their data set doesn’t capture those below 50,000, so they then must project what those might be.
Now, it’s a recognized problem and has been for some years. We’re hopeful that through the current process in which we are involved with the federal government that that will be resolved. I know we have made significant progress discussing this at the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
A. Weaver: Just to summarize then, the minister has talked about the climate leadership team’s recommendations, and the climate leadership team’s recommendations, apparently — not what I read — will allow for two large LNG facilities to come in place. I guess we’d all have to have negative emissions — everyone else.
Let’s come to that, because the climate leadership team recommended a $10 per year increase in the carbon tax every single year. My question then is: if the minister is going to evoke the climate team’s response, is the minister here today willing to say that she accepts the $10 per tonne increase in the price of carbon, and does she not think that this will immediately preclude any LNG industry from existing in B.C.?
Can she look British Columbians in the face and say that we support a $10 per tonne increase in emissions pricing and we honestly think that an LNG facility will develop here in B.C.? Does the minister honestly think she can have her cake and eat it too?
Hon. M. Polak: No surprise to the member, I’ll save pronouncements on taxation activities related to the carbon tax for the time when we’re debating that bill in committee.
A. Weaver: Just to clear up the record for British Columbians who are riveted to their TV screens today, the answer is simple. You cannot increase carbon tax $10 per tonne per year and expect there to be an LNG industry. The reality is you can’t, unless you exclude all LNG emissions.
The reality is we are witnessing yet another emperor with no clothes. It’s about time, frankly, that British Columbians be levelled with honestly — that we cannot have climate leadership and an LNG industry, and until such time as this minister levels correctly, honestly, with British Columbians, they will continue and remain to have zero credibility on the climate file.