Course:CONS200/2019/BC's Climate Action Plan

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The British Columbia Action plan is a general outline of executive goals fostered by social economic policies intended to address environmental issues. The first BC Action Plan was implemented in 2010 but has since undergone various iterations. The current BC Action Plan was implemented by John Horgan’s NDP government in 2018. It is based on the conclusions of the 2015 Paris Agreement, where a transnational consensus was made by many countries to conserve the rise of the global temperature to below 2 degrees by the end of the century.[1] BC’s climate action plan aims to achieve 40% reduced emissions by 2030.[2] In 2012, the action plan was on target with its goal of reducing emissions to 38.2 megatonnes per year by 2030.[3] Based upon reports released by the Government of British Columbia, BC is currently not projected to meet its own climate targets, however, the provincial government has claimed that they will reveal new policies in 2019 that will explain how BC is still on track to meet its targets.[2]

List of Acronyms

BC: British Columbia

LNG: Liquid natural Gas

UBCIC: Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Background

BC Legislature Buildings.jpg

The effects of climate change are being felt globally. The negative implications in response to the increase of carbon and various other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are expected to worsen as we drift into the future. The province of British Columbia has undoubtedly experienced environmental catastrophes already in its near history, due to climate change induced by humans. The warming of the winters has led to un-natural spikes in pine beetle populations, decimating the lodgepole-pine populations of western Canada. The warmer, drier summers incentivize wildfires to grow larger than before, polluting the air and water around all BC residents.

In order to curb further devastation, the province British Columbia has decided to work alongside Canada and other countries around the globe to decrease overall carbon emissions. The province created emission reduction targets in 2007. Since 2010, British Columbia has created reports on provincial emissions and overall reduction targets to be met. Every 2 years since, a new report has been issued.

According to the Government of British Columbia, they are expecting to see: a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, 60% by 2040, and 80% by 2050. The reductions are meant to be below the emissions seen in 2007.[4] The government has various initiatives currently in use in order to follow the downward trend in greenhouse emissions. Some of the major ones include a carbon tax implementation, an increase in investment for public transit, and a carbon neutral government.

The carbon tax in British Columbia as the first carbon tax to be implemented in North America. It was implemented in 2008. The price as of April, 2017 was $35/ tonne, and will increase to $50/tonne by 2021. The government believes this will encourage new green initiatives across the province. As an example, with carbon priced at $35/tonne, gasoline will cost roughly 7.78 cents/ Litre extra. The idea is to incentivize smaller, greener vehicles on the roads.[5]

Transportation accounts for 38% of BC’s annual emissions. In order to bring this percentage lower into the future, the province will invest $8 billion in the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund in the next 10 years. This money will aid transit infrastructure projects such as new bus lines and more frequent sky train services. For those driving, the province provides up to $6000 off the next electric vehicle purchase.[6]

Each year since 2010, the public sector has obtained net neutral emissions. This includes universities, health institutes, crown corporations, and government offices. Moving into the future, the public sector strives to cut emissions even more broadly, by increasing the use of low carbon practices and materials revolved around infrastructure.[7]

Despite all these incentives, according to the 2018 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report, emissions have started to rise once again, and we have undone reductions made from 2007 to 2010. The rises in carbon emissions are likely driven by population increase and economic growth in the last few years.[3] The decreases in carbon emissions after 2008 may be due to lower economic growth after a continental recession in 2008-2010. The economy recovered afterward, which can be seen in the increase in carbon emissions in following years after 2010.

Current Implementation

Since the implementation of the first iteration of the BC climate action plan there have been varying levels of effectiveness. Since 2010 there have been both periods where BC has been on track to meet its climate goals and periods were the province has exceeded the limit to meet these climate objectives.[3]

The current total emissions data for BC is recorded up to 2016.[3] The emissions target was not met for the year of 2016 with BC emitting 63.1 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses.[3] This amount is an increase since 2010.[3] The greatest reduction in total net emissions was the period of 2007 to 2010.[3] During this period, greenhouse gas emissions were decreased from 63.6 percent to approximately 59 million tonnes.[3] Since 2010 the net emissions from BC have increased back to 61.3 million tonnes.[3] This increase is said to largely caused by “economic and population growth as well as a slowdown of emissions reduction measures since 2011”.[3]

Currently, the primary causes of greenhouse gas emissions are transportation, industry, buildings and communities.[3] The largest of these groups is industry. This group makes up 40 percent of BC's greenhouse gas emissions.[3] Only slightly behind industry is transportation. Transportation makes up 38 percent of the net emissions for BC.[3] The lowest of the three groups is buildings and communities which makes up 22 percent.[3] The emissions from each of these groups changed throughout the period of 2007 to 2016. The emissions from industry increased by two percent whereas the other two groups have decreased since 2007.[3] Transportation emissions have decreased by one percent whereas buildings and communities have decreased by 11 percent.[3] Changes in legislation regarding emissions is required to keep BC on track to meet its future goals.

Causes of Ineffectiveness

The BC Climate Action Plan's inability to succeed is a result of failed goals and unfulfilled promises.[8] There are multiple emissions sectors and each have many inputs and policies that have resulted in failure to meet the goals set out by the BC Climate Action Plan.

Ineffectiveness by Category

Pipeline Bridge, Haig Highway No 7, near hope, BC Canada - panoramio.jpg

The BC Climate Action Plan simplifies carbon emissions into three categories: transportation, communities, and industry. In the 2018 climate action plan report, it is shown that from 2007 to 2016, transportation contributions have decreased by 1%, community emissions have decreased 11%, and industry has increased carbon by 2%. Community carbon is decreasing at a rate to reach the 2030 40% reduction goal; however, transportation emissions have not changed, and industry is increasing.[3] The 2018 review also reports that the transportation and industry emissions contribute to 7% of British Columbia’s current carbon emissions and are the two categories that are currently preventing the BC Climate Action Plan from meeting 2030 trends. This indicates that the industrial emissions category is the main driving factor that is causing the BC Climate Action Plan to fall short of targets thus far.

Liquid Natural Gas

The BC Climate Action plan is not on target primarily due to the contribution of the liquid natural gas (LNG) industry. From 2007, yearly carbon emissions have increased by 11%, or 1.2 Mt of Co2. This increase has caused the industry category to increase emissions by 2% overall, even while metal processing carbon decreased by 22%.[3] This increase caused by LNG has been enough to derail BC’s 2030 goal.[2]

Other Causes

Initially adopted in 2008, British Columbia implemented North America's first carbon tax in an effort to reduce emissions and stay on target to the BC Climate Action Plan goals.[5] The inability to meet goals is credited by some to the carbon tax being frozen in 2012.[9] As of April 1st, 2018, the carbon tax was set at $35 per tonne of carbon emissions, and is set to increase by $5 per tonne of carbon emissions. This will rest at $50 per tonne in 2021.[3]

Critical Perspectives

While the emphatic goal-oriented climate directives and environmental orientation of British Columbia's recent government might seem progressive in the current political atmosphere, local media coverage beyond general reportage has largely been skeptical and negative of the various iterations of BC's Action Plan. [10] [11] [12]

The Tyee, a provincial and independent online media platform, has generally echoed critical sentiments. [10] [13] [14] Notwithstanding the latest article from January 2019 praising the success of BC's carbon tax [15], coverage from the prior year explicitly questioned the credibility and timidity of BC's action plan in the wake of increasing climate disasters, with a particular emphasis on the government's continued relationship with LNG projects [10] [14] [16]. The government's history of considering LNG projects is especially criticized in an article by Judith Lavoie as “mak[ing] it impossible to meet climate targets” [14]. Likewise, Guy Dauncey emphasizes in an op-ed that “the development of LNG is completely incompatible with the need to reduce our emissions”, citing figures of carbon emissions from proposed LNG facilities to be built near Squamish as contributing to total carbon emissions [10]. The Tyee furthermore published a revealing article based on newly uncovered documents that indicated how the oil and gas industry were actively involved through in-person meetings with the government in the revision of climate leadership recommendations [13]. Authors Shannon Daubt and Zoe Yunker point out how the documents elucidate that, beyond mere consultation, “the process constituted an invitation to the country’s most powerful oil and gas companies to shape both the substance and language of B.C.’s next climate plan” [13]. Citing the secrecy of the process, in addition to the lack of public disclosure and transparency, the authors argue that this reciprocal relationship between government and industry could be taken as a prime example of institutional corruption, and undercuts public trust in the government [13].

An article from Martyn Brown, who was former B.C. premier's Gordon Campbell’s chief of staff, published in the Georgia Straight presents a critical assessment of B.C.'s new legislated climate targets as unrealistic due to an absence of binding legal and political accountability [12]. Similarly skeptical about government-approved LNG projects, he draws on reports and statistical estimations from the Pembina Institute to contend that “[John] Horgan's tax 'relief' to entice more natural gas development from the likes of Canada LNG will only aggravate [the problem of pre-existing drastic emission increases]”. [12] He furthermore criticizes the B.C. government's lack of accountability following the amendment of the Climate Change Accountability Act, as it allows for the current and continuing administration to avoid legally meeting short-term statutory climate targets and answering for them in their terms of office for at least a decade. [12] Lastly, his brief recap of emission inventory under the Clark government, and what he calls their “flagrant disregard for meeting B.C.'s statutory emissions”, suggests that the difficulty of the B.C. government to maintain trajectory could be due to shifting political administrations with different interests. [12]

The Sierra Club BC, the B.C. based branch of the international environmental society, has likewise taken a resolute stance on the B.C. government with their implementation of the B.C. action plan. [17] [18] [19]The organization as a whole has been uncompromising on the issue of LNG development, with executive director Bob Peart stating in an open letter that “the development of an LNG export industry is incompatible with any serious approach to tackling climate change”, citing the significantly increased figures of extra GHG emissions of even building additional LNG terminals [17]. Senior forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting expressed similar sentiments across numerous open letters and articles, stating that “it's not possible to expand fracking and LNG export and meet BC's climate targets”, as well as, “we haven’t yet seen any evidence that the LNG Canada project can fit within a credible climate plan.” [19] [18] He goes as far to suggest that the B.C's encouragement of LNG development is a “new form of climate denial”, the idea that one could simultaneously expand carbon-emitting projects while also reducing our emissions. [19]

Critical Recommendations

The CleanBC plan makes major strides towards BC’s climate targets, however, whether they are enough is still up for debate. Many organizations, writers and media outlets have offered recommendations that they believe would help the BC climate plan achieve its goal of aligning BC with the Paris Agreement.

Stop Large-Scale Fossil Fuel Development

Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

The timeline proposed by the Paris Climate Agreement[1] has led to claims that fossil fuel projects such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project are incompatible with meaningful climate action. Such opinions are based upon the same logic that has led to criticism of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline: that the province cannot afford to be increasing carbon emissions in any large scale industrial if the BC government intends to meet its overall carbon emissions reduction target in time for the 2030 deadline[11][3]. Targets which Jan Wieting of the Sierra Club has already deemed insufficient. Wieting even goes so far as to call for BC to follow France in immediately halting all fossil fuel projects.[11]

John Horgan’s NDP government has publicly opposed the Trans-Mountain expansion[20]. Criticism of the project, as related to the CleanBC plan is therefore mainly levelled at the federal government with the purpose of putting pressure on the Trudeau administration to call off the project, as well as lending support to Horgan’s stance.

Union of BC Indian Chiefs statement

Grand Chief Stewart Philip, of the UBCIC has declared that while “400 fires are raging in British Columbia… the Canadian government wants to buy an overpriced 60-year-old leaky pipeline and build another one that will guarantee an expansion of greenhouse-gas pollution produced by the tarsands at a time when we should be hitting the emergency shutdown button to prevent catastrophic climate chaos.”[21] The Grand Chief’s position makes it fairly clear that he does not believe the Trans-Mountain pipeline is compatible with the BC Climate plan’s targets.

Liquid Natural Gas

According to Barry Saxifrage of the National Observer, one major flaw in the plan is the gap between BC’s Industrial emissions targets and the provinces current projected industrial emissions trajectory.[2] The discrepancy between CleanBC's targets and predicted industrial emissions could be drastically reduced if the LNG Canada's proposed new developments are not built. Indeed, the first stage of LNG Canada's BC development plan alone would mean that "Industry emissions end up falling less than half way to the provincial target in 2030"[2]. If the second stage of the LNG project is built it is predicted to result in an increase in industrial emissions.[2] Without LNG, Saxifrage, of the National Observer, using data from BC Ministry of Environment, BC Inventory Reports and many others, has projected that industry emissions could fall around 30% to be within touching distance of CleanBC’s targets. Even with this reduction, industry emissions would still not be aligned with CleanBC’s 2030 goals. Such a disparity in emission levels serves to highlight how big a difference LNG Canada makes to the likelihood of achieving the targets set out by CleanBC.

Improve Forest Management

Walbran GLW Clearcut-7.jpg

Massive swathes of BC are covered by forest cover that has the potential to be a “carbon sink” that could mitigate the impacts of climate change worldwide, however, they are instead a source of carbon emissions.[11] There are admittedly several reasons for this, some of which are not directly policy related, found “poor forest management” to be a significant cause of carbon emissions from forests.[11][22] Something that places the blame for this problem on human shoulders. In the climate era, BC cannot afford to be simultaneously drastically reducing our sources of carbon mitigation while increasing carbon emissions in the same sector. In her article Jens Wetting of the Sierra Club recommends that BC end old-growth logging projects such as the ones on Vancouver Island, which is a source of “millions of tonnes of additional annual carbon emissions”.[11][22] Wetting’s point is that the BC climate plan should include a decrease in deforestation and a strategy for better forest management, especially if the BC government continues to insists on expanding fossil fuel infrastructure.

Conclusion

The BC Climate Action Plan has seen success in its early days, and failure to stay on track in the years since. This is a result of industry, transportation, and public carbon emissions, and change is more necessary than ever before. There is room for improving policies that are already in place, and introducing new means. This change will be necessary in order to reach the goals set out in the BC Climate Action Plan, and any future climate plans and targets.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Paris Agreement. Paris, France: United Nations. 2015. p. 3. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Saxifrage, Barry. "CleanBC vs LNG. Here's the 'missing chart' that explains the gap". The National Observer. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 Climate Action in B.C. 2018 progress to Targets. Victoria, BC: BC Ministry of Environment. 2018. 
  4. "Climate Planning & Action". BC Government. 2018. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "British Columbia's Carbon Tax". BC Government. 2018. 
  6. "Climate Action Areas". BC Government. 2018. 
  7. "Public Sector Organizations & Climate Action". BC Government. 2019. 
  8. "B.C. government drops greenhouse gas target for new 2030 goal". CBC News. 
  9. "B.C. climate leadership team calls on province to act". CBC News. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Dauncey, Guy (August 27. 2018). "BC's Timid Climate Plans, And 12 Steps That Could Save Us". The Tyee. Retrieved March 16, 2019.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Wieting, Jens (September 18, 2018). "B.C.'s climate action must address three elephants in the room". The Narwhal. Retrieved March 28, 2019. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Brown, Martyn. "BC's New Climate Targets: So Much Hot Air". Retrieved March 16, 2019. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Daub & Yunker, Shannon & Zoe (18 September, 2017). "Big Oil and Gas Helped Shape BC's Climate Plan". The Tyee. Retrieved March 16, 2019.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Lavoie, Judith (16 January, 2018). "BC Falling Behind on Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions". Retrieved March 16, 2019.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. Axford, Craig (11 January, 2019). "Why BC's Carbon Tax Worked". The Tyee. Retrieved March 16, 2019.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  16. Wu, Karen (30 January, 2018). "How BC Can Get Back on Track to Reduce Carbon Emissions". The Tyee. Retrieved March 16, 2019.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. 17.0 17.1 Kemp, Anna. "B.C.'s Climate Action Plan Must Be Bold". Retrieved March 16, 2019. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Wieting, Jens (October 2, 2018). "Allowing LNG Canada Construction In Absence Of Credible Climate Plan Irresponsible Of B.C. Government". Retrieved March 16, 2019. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Wieting, Jens (March 22, 2018). "BC Government's Announcement on LNG A New Form of Climate Denial". Retrieved March 16, 2019. 
  20. Zussman, Richard (May 29th, 2018). "B.C. premier continues to fight, says 'it does not matter who owns the pipeline'". Global News. Retrieved April 3rd, 2019.  Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)
  21. Cruickshank, Ainslie (August 9, 2018). "B.C. Grand Chief urges action to 'prevent catastrophic climate chaos' as costs of Trans Mountain pipeline rise". The Star Vancouver. Retrieved April 3rd 2019.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  22. 22.0 22.1 Wieting, Jens (February 2013). "Carbon at risk: B.C.'s Unprotected Old-Growth Rainforest" (PDF). Sierra Club BC. Retrieved March 28, 2019. 


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This conservation resource was created by Will. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.