It’s been more than seven months since Premier Clark’s Climate Leadership Team released its suite of recommendations for British Columbia’s climate action plan, yet we are still awaiting the government’s response. To provide some context, in an earlier post I noted that the BC Liberals have been inactive on the climate change file for more than three years now. As a province we can no longer claim climate leadership. Wishing it were so does not mean it is so.
On May 16, seven members of that Climate Leadership Team took the unprecedented response of writing a scathing condemnation of the government’s delay. They stated:
You initially committed to having a draft plan in advance of the Paris climate talks last December and a final plan by this March. The draft plan was cancelled and the deadline for the final plan was pushed to June.
The seven signatories further concluded that
The Climate Leadership Team recommendations, implemented in their entirety, provide the blueprint for a B.C. climate plan to put the province back on track for the 2050 and interim 2030 targets. Anything less is not climate leadership.
Well yet another deadline has passed. Nevertheless, here’s what we might expect to see in the government’s “climate leadership plan” — a plan to reach 80% greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 — that will appear in two parts.
The first part will likely be released within two weeks. It will almost certainly involve photo ops with forestry leaders, leaders in cement manufacturing and leaders in the oil and gas sector. A smiling Premier, flanked by the Minister of the Environment will beam as she announces British Columbia’s commitment to climate leadership. She’ll proceed to announce that something like 25% of our 2050 greenhouse gas targets will be met by forestry. And then, in the next breath, the government will announce a major tree planting initiative to reseed forests that were lost by the mountain pine beetle. They’ll claim that they’re creating jobs abound for British Columbians in tree seedling planting and through digging up stumps — jobs for those who were newly re-engineered for the non-existent LNG sector through BC’s skills for jobs blueprint: reengineering education and training. Millions of dollars of taxpayers money will be committed to reforest an already active forest and then the government will claim that this qualifies them for a carbon credit. You simply can’t make this stuff up. It could only happen in British Columbia.
Sorry, but that emperor has no clothes. I might as well point this out now, before the province tries to claim that it does. The province never claimed the carbon deficit from the pine beetle destruction in the first place and so cannot claim a carbon credit for its reseeding. This was an existing forest — there is no afforestation involved. Will the province claim a negative carbon credit for the recent forest fires in British Columbia’s northeast? No. Will they claim a negative credit if there is a forest fire after the seedlings are planted? No.
Stop and think about this for a minute. The mountain pine beetle devastated vast quantities of BC’s lodgepole pine forests because of the age profile of the trees combined with multiple warm winters that led to low larvae mortality. Climate change played a role in the destruction of these forests and now the government wants to get credit for replanting them while, get this, continuing to search for the elusive LNG windfall. The irony is baffling.
But it gets worse. Desperate for a consumer of site C power, the government will hail the future electrification of the upstream natural gas industry — an industry that has essentially shut down in northeastern BC because of a glut in global supply. Where there is drilling left, it is for the liquids with the methane in many cases being pumped back underground. This electrification, of course, means more public investment in transmission lines and so forth.
And then, a couple of low hanging fruit regarding methane abatement in the natural gas sector will be announced. We can thank the Trudeau Liberals for initiating this latter small, but positive, development.
So let’s be very clear, when the BC Government announces it’s first phase of its climate leadership plan, it will be nothing short of a colossal failure, spun with photo ops, smiling politicians and glib industry leaders. British Columbians deserve better.
I cannot wait until the fall when part two of the plan is supposed to be announced. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that ends up being delayed until after the Federal Liberals have developed their plans. In the fall, we can look forward to the premier promising climate leadership — but only after the 2017 election.
British Columbians have been sold yet another bill of goods. As I mentioned last year, in my view the well meaning members of the climate leadership team were co-opted to provide the premier with a credibility panel that would allow her to have photo ops at the Paris Climate Conference last fall.
The disastrous approach that this government has taken to climate change mitigation combined with their dismantling of so many of Gordon Campbell’s prior policy initiatives truly underscores that British Columbia has moved from climate leader to climate laggard.