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B.C.’s new plan to reduce carbon emissions in the province will require changes in how we drive, where we live and how industry operates.
Premier John Horgan today announced CleanBC — a strategy to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by the year 2030. The plan only accounts for three-quarters of the required reductions, with the rest to be announced over the next two years and the financial details will not be available until the provincial budget is released in February. Nonetheless, environmentalists and business representatives applauded the plan as a good first step.
“With CleanBC, British Columbia is rising to the challenge of climate change,” Horgan said. “By moving to clean, renewable energy — like our abundant supply of B.C. electricity — we can power our growing economy and make life better and more affordable for British Columbians.”
B.C. has seen unprecedented wildfire seasons over the past two summers, as well as devastating flooding and droughts. The United Nations has warned that drastic cuts to emissions need to be made by 2030 to limit global warming.
Although the costs of the climate strategy will not be announced until February, Environment Minister George Heyman said it would be “fully funded.”
“This isn’t a choice between the economy and the environment,” Heyman said. “That’s a false choice and it’s one we just don’t have to make.”
The province’s carbon emissions today are about 60 megatonnes.
The lion’s share of the reduction will come from industry, where emissions must be reduced by 8.4 million megatonnes, largely through the electrification of oil and gas operations, a pilot project on clean trucking in the Lower Mainland and providing incentives to industry through existing carbon tax revenues.
Four megatonnes will be cut by switching to cleaner fuels at the gas pump. The low carbon fuel standard will be increased to 20 per cent by 2030. Some of this can be accomplished by increasing the amount of renewable fuel that is blended with liquid fuels.
New buildings will be required to be more energy efficient and there will also be funding to renovate and retrofit older homes, which the plan says will cut two megatonnes. The plan calls for 16,000 homes to be updated each year.
Plans to reduce residential and industrial organic waste will save a further 0.7 megatonnes.
Last month, the government announced that by 2040, all cars sold in B.C. will be clean energy vehicles. That, combined with more charging stations, will cut 1.3 megatonnes by 2030, the government said.
There will be incentives for industry, incentives for homeowners and incentive for people buying electric cars, but none of the details of those programs were announced today.
Plan's goal is to make B.C. the cleanest place in the world
The goals of the plan are to make B.C. the cleanest jurisdiction in the world, while the province’s industry remains competitive, even during the transition, reporters were told in a technical briefing.
This plan is missing about one-quarter of the cuts that will be required to meet the target by 2030, but the government says it will announce those plans over the next 18 to 24 months.
B.C. will need to increase its electricity production about eight per cent to meet these targets — an amount about equal to the demand from a city the size of Vancouver, reporters were told in a technical briefing.
Horgan was asked if this will mean a Hydro rate increase.
“We are working as hard as we can to keep rates down,” Horgan said.
When asked about recent protests in France over rising fuel taxes, Horgan said B.C.’s economy and unemployment rates are the best in the country and the plan shouldn’t mean any downsizing. Rather, the plan includes training for people to learn the construction and mechanical skills to work in the clean construction and zero emission vehicle fields.
Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party and Horgan’s power-sharing partner, said this plan puts B.C. on the path to be a world leader.
“This is not only a climate plan, this is an economic plan,” Weaver said. “This is about sending a message to the international community that B.C. is going to rise to this challenge.”
In a media scrum, Weaver expressed doubts that the province could meet its further 2040 goal to cut emissions by 60 per cent and its 2050 goal to cut emissions by 80 per cent if the recently approved LNG project is allowed to expand in the future. He’s now confident that emissions can still be cut if only the first phase, which is forecast to add 3.45 megatonnes to the province’s emissions, goes ahead.
CleanBC was announced at an event attended by hundreds of environmental leaders, business people and government representatives. The material given to the media includes supporting quotes from federal and American politicians, Indigenous leaders including Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, and many representatives from business, labour and environmental groups.
“With other provinces faltering on climate action, B.C.’s climate strategy brings hope for all Canadians concerned about the wellbeing of their families and communities,” said Karen Tam Wu, the BC director of the Pembina Institute.
Stephen Cornish, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, said most British Columbians know climate change is harming us now and we need to respond.
“Today, the B.C. government delivered phase one of a plan that repositions the province as a Canadian climate leader,” Cornish said. “British Columbians can be proud to be at the forefront of landmark solutions for transportation and renewable energy.”
Tzeporah Berman, international program director at Stand.org, said it’s a relief to have the government in B.C. taking climate change seriously again.
“The CleanBC plan has some of the strongest climate policies in North America and British Columbians should be proud,” Berman said. “The recent UN report makes clear that we cannot expand fossil fuels and ensure a safe climate. There is still hard work ahead for British Columbia in the second phase of the plan to reduce emissions from industry and I look forward to working with this government to address this challenge.”
Later, in an interview, Dan Woynillowicz, policy director for Clean Energy Canada, said he thinks British Columbians can have confidence in the plan, particularly because it is comprehensive and has clear goals and timelines.
The upcoming budget will be a “litmus test” that will show if the money is there to meet the goals of the plan, Woynillowicz said. After former premier Gordon Campbell introduced the carbon tax in 2008, emissions started to go down, Woynillowicz said, but they plateaued and started to creep up again under former premier Christy Clark.
“You’re never done. You have to put these things in place and then keep turning the dials again,” he said.
The federal government has indicated it may be willing to pay for some of the electrification of remote oil and gas operations, he said.
Regarding the missing 25 per cent that is still required to meet the 2030 targets, Woynillowicz said they will be in sectors like cleaner buses, more improvements on waste and even greater electrification of industry, but that the government is still working out the best ways to do those things.
The Sierra Club BC’s campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon said the plan has transparent reporting and accountability.
“We will be watching to ensure that the climate advisory council has sufficient budget and capacity to do its work, can set interim sectoral targets and has the ability to revise pollution reduction targets in future in light of the latest science,” Vernon said.
The plan calls for annual reporting of spending, results and anticipated emission reductions, as well as forecasts for emissions for the next three years.
Tracy Sherlock writes about B.C. politics for National Observer. Send your tips and ideas to [email protected]