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British Columbia moving from Climate Leader to Climate Laggard

In 2013 representatives from California, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia came together to form the Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC) and sign a non-binding climate and energy action plan. Yesterday, in San Francisco they renewed their commitment to the Pacific North America Climate Leadership Agreement and Action Plan, claiming to have updated their previous agreement with increasingly bold goals that reflect the need for decisive climate action.

Unfortunately, from a British Columbia perspective, the press conference was high on political rhetoric and short on any real action.

Minister Polak suggested that there weren’t many easy places to look for further greenhouse gas reductions because we already have the lowest rate in the country – this is false on both accounts:

(i) More than 40% of our household GHG emissions and over 30% of BC’s emissions come from transportation, a sector with enormous emission-reducing potential.

(ii) By 2014 and relative to 1990 levels, five provinces have actually realized net overall greenhouse gas reductions: Nova Scotia (-17%), New Brunswick (-9%), PEI (-8%), Quebec (-7%) and Ontario (-6%).

BC has the third highest overall increase: Saskatchewan (+68%), Alberta (+56%) and British Columbia (+19%). BC is only 4th best in terms of per capita emissions (behind Quebec, PEI and Ontario).

It is beyond any doubt that the current government intends to ride the ambition of the previous Campbell administration. Since Premier Clark has taken the helm, the current government has done virtually nothing to advance any serious climate action and emissions have gone up as a direct consequence.

In the press release accompanying the PCC signing, our Minister states: “We will build on momentum gained from the Paris agreement by not only continuing to reduce emissions at home, but also by helping other countries transition away from dirty fossil fuels.” What this means is that instead of climate action, the BC Liberals will continue to chase a hypothetical LNG industry. In so doing, they are ignoring the words of more than 90 international scientists who recently pointed out in an open letter that it makes no sense from a greenhouse gas reduction perspective. Climate policy, of course, gets in the way of the LNG pipedream.

So while California introduces Cap and Trade legislation, in BC we repeal our legislation. While Ontario and Alberta launch ambitious climate action plans, we watch our carbon tax become less and less affective. This is what our climate record look like over the past few years:

  1. The Clean Energy Act was amended to exclude emissions for liquefaction in LNG industry;
  2. The Pacific Carbon Trust was shut down;
  3. Carbon tax increase were halted;
  4. Cap and Trade enabling legislation (designed to bring big point source emitters in with California) has been repealed;
  5. We have a new Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act that introduces an “emissions intensity” framework that is more about supporting an LNG industry than limiting emissions;
  6. The LiveSmart BC program has essentially shut down;
  7. Emissions have gone up year after year;
  8. We will not reach our legislated 2020 GHG reduction target.

As a province we can no longer claim climate leadership. Wishing it were so does not mean it is so. Our government may have reaffirmed their commitment to the PCC action plan, but their inaction over the last three years indicates that they do not take the agreement seriously.

As other provinces are stepping up and getting more ambitious, the B.C. Liberals seem content to coast as we fall behind. On top of that, if the LNG sector expanded the way the government has promised our GHG emissions would skyrocket.

Addressing climate changes requires direct action, not more promises, targets, political posturing and rhetoric.

 

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