‘Chal­lenges we can no longer ig­nore’

Sweep­ing B.C. plan tar­gets heavy emit­ters with new rules, car­bon tax in­cen­tives

StarMetro Vancouver - - FRONT PAGE - Crit­ics: Emis­sions from liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas in­dus­try re­main a ma­jor test thes­tar.com/van­cou­ver

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.


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.

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