‘Challenges we can no longer ignore’
Sweeping B.C. plan targets heavy emitters with new rules, carbon tax incentives
The B.C. government’s sweeping climate plan garnered support from business groups and climate advocates alike but it remains unclear how the province will close a 6-million-tonne shortfall in its greenhouse gas commitments.
The province’s plan, released Wednesday in Vancouver, aims to cut B.C.’S emissions by 18.9 million tonnes over the next 12 years, largely through increasing the use of electricity by all sectors — including heavy industry and transportation – and boosting low-carbon fuels.
Climate advocates praised the government for taking an important step in the right direction, particularly given a political context that’s seen U.S. President Donald Trump slash environmental regulations and Ontario Premier Doug Ford scrap the province’s cap and trade program.
“It’s actually quite remarkable to have a government that gets it and is doing their best to act on it,” said political scientist George Hoberg, an expert in environmental policy at the University of British Columbia.
“We are 75 per cent of the way there, which is extremely important,” he said.
The plan depends most heavily on slashing industry emissions by 8.4 million tonnes, nearly half the total cuts planned — achieving that with aggressive electrification, major new hydro transmission lines and a $240-milliona-year technology fund.
Another third of the cuts would come from greener transportation, particularly a ban on emission-producing new vehicles within 20 years, incentives to buy cleaner cars and boosting the renewable fuel supply.
Increasing the price on carbon emissions to $50 a tonne and ramping up buildings’ energy efficiency each account for a further one-tenth emissions savings, the latter by retrofitting
51,000 provincially-owned housing units, and requiring at least
15 per cent of natural gas use to come from renewable sources.
Observers noted however, that the Cleanbc plan falls 25 per cent short of meeting B.C.’S 2030 target to cut emissions by 40 per cent relative to 2007 levels.
And, some experts, including B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, say counteracting emissions
from B.C.’S nascent liquefied natural gas industry remains a major challenge.
Premier John Horgan, though, was adamant the government will close that gap within two years.
Horgan said with climate change, a historic global crisis, B.C. has both local and international obligations, but also opportunities. “The global stage awaits us,” he said, “but our backyard needs attention as well.”
Speaking to a large audience in Vancouver, he cited two summers in row of “unprecedented” wildfires, floods and drought that displaced thousands. “We can see British Columbia is changing, this special place that we depend on and call home,” he said. “These are challenges we can no longer ignore, and opportunities we must take.”
What’s “very interesting” about the B.C. government approach, said Hoberg, is how “enthusiastic they are about the economic benefits,” not just the environmental imperative of climate action.
“The only way we’re going to be able to address climate change is to turn it into a great economic opportunity,” he said.
It’s an opportunity members of the business community welcomed, with some caveats.
Greg D’avignon, CEO of the Business Council of B.C., endorsed the plan’s emphasis on harnessing B.C.’S resources to “advance a competitive and productive economy for the benefit of all British Columbians.”
“By leveraging our low-carbon assets, including renewable hydro electricity,” he said in a statement, “British Columbia can play an outsized role in reducing global climate impacts.”
But, he said, employers and individuals need to understand what the plan means in terms of costs. And that is an outstanding question. The government committed the climate plan would be fully-costed but the details won’t be released until February’s budget.
“THESE ARE CHALLENGES WE CAN NO LONGER IGNORE, AND OPPORTUNITIES WE MUST TAKE.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan
Rejean Tetrault, general manager of Foothills and Groundbirch, left, is seen at the Shell Saturn Groundbirch natural gas plant near Fort St. John, B.C. Some experts say counteracting emissions from B.C.’S nascent liquefied natural gas industry remains a challenge.jonathan
B.C. Premier John Horgan unveiled a sweeping new climate plan on Wednesday.