B.C. moving in wrong direction on emissions, prof says
Co-author of UN global warming report calls on B.C. to reconsider LNG project
B.C. is moving in the wrong direction if it wants to be a leader in curbing climate change, says a Simon Fraser University professor who co-authored a dire United Nations report this week on the impacts of global warming.
“We are at a critical juncture. We need rapid and unprecedented changes across all aspects of the economy and society,” said Kirsten Zickfeld, a climate science professor at SFU’s department of geography. “Vancouver has done a great job with its green action plan, but I just don’t see the same level of ambition at the provincial or federal levels.”
Zickfeld is a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and one of the authors of a special report this week on the effects of global warming 1.5 C over pre-industrial levels.
The report shows that if governments don’t take immediate and intensive action, the planet will warm up to 1.5 C warmer sooner than anticipated, and possibly in just 12 years.
The goal now is to limit the increase to under 1.5 degrees C, the report said, rather than 2 C as specified in the 2015 Paris climate change accord. Over 1.5 C, there will be catastrophic change, said Zickfeld, such as increased drought, wildfires, famines and floods.
Entire ecosystems will be wiped out.
Zickfeld said the large-scale fossil fuel projects Canada’s government is taking on make the new climate goals virtually impossible to achieve. She estimated the $40-billion liquefied natural gas export terminal on British Columbia’s north coast, which recently got the green light from Royal Dutch Shell and its partners, will pump up to 10 million tonnes per year of greenhouse gas emissions in B.C., comparable with all the cars and trucks in the province, which in 2015 (the latest year for data) was 8.6 million tonnes per year.
“To offset the LNG project would require taking all the cars off the road or replacing them with electric vehicles,” she said, adding that a more realistic plan would be to transition all gas-powered vehicles to electric within a decade.
Zickfeld added that B.C. needs to see a solid plan from the provincial government about how they are going to reach emissions targets with the LNG Canada project, and if they can’t meet the targets, she hopes “the government will reconsider this project.”
“As a country we are approving pipelines to move fossil fuels. This is totally moving in the wrong direction,” she said.
When the LNG Canada project was launched last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau argued that providing Asia with natural gas will help many countries kick their coal habit, which will help combat climate change by driving down emissions worldwide.
Trudeau said the project will create 10,000 jobs, and pledged it will have the lowest carbon intensity of any large-scale LNG facility in the world.
To meet the new targets in the IPCC report, Canada would have to cut its emissions almost in half over the next 12 years.
That means emissions would need to fall to a maximum of 385 million tonnes a year. In 2016 they were almost twice that, and the Canadian government’s current aim is to cut to only about 512 million tonnes a year.
Vancouver has done a great job with its green action plan, but I just don’t see the same level of ambition at the provincial or federal levels.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Everyone needs to make sacrifices, Zickfeld said, if we are going to cut emissions. Some of the top changes include eating less meat and dairy, and buying locally sourced food.
Residents are also encouraged to walk or cycle short distances, and take transit or, if possible, drive electric cars.
And, though she admits this may be difficult to achieve, people need to take fewer airline trips.