B.C.’s latest climate plan fails its most important test
Author — Jeremy Moorhouse Category — Carbon, Electricity
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The true measure of any climate plan can be boiled down to one question: how well does it reduce carbon pollution?

Apply this test to the B.C. Climate Leadership Plan, which involved more than 15 months of consultation before its August release, and the answer is clear: the plan fails.

Recently, Clean Energy Canada worked with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and the Pembina Institute. We contracted Navius Research to model what the policies in the climate plan would achieve when combined with a federal carbon price. The results weren’t encouraging.

British Columbians also risk missing out on opportunities if we don’t develop a strong climate plan. Thanks in part to B.C.’s 2008 climate plan, the province is home to the largest per-capita cluster of clean technology firms in Canada.

Under the plan, the combined carbon pollution from buildings, vehicles, industry, utilities, natural gas and LNG (shown in blue below) will actually climb by eight million tonnes over the next 14 years, equal to adding two million cars to B.C.’s roads. Even by 2050, carbon pollution from these sources will be higher than today. And this is a generous assessment: it assumes all actions in the plan are funded and implemented on schedule, a historically rare outcome of Canadian climate plans.

The federal government has committed Canada to reducing carbon pollution by 30 per cent from 2005 levels, but B.C.’s carbon pollution is going in the wrong direction. The plan also sets B.C. up to miss its own legislated 2020 target by a generous margin—while actually moving the province further away from its 2050 goal.

(It should be noted that B.C.’s climate plan includes actions like tree planting and better forest management to help reduce carbon pollution. Our analysis didn’t include these actions because it’s not built to assess them. However, even if we accept the government’s assessment, B.C. is still more than 40 million tonnes away from its 2050 target.)

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Civil society leaders, including Clean Energy Canada’s Merran Smith, widely criticized the plan because it ignored many of the recommendations of B.C.’s Climate Leadership Team. This modelling indicates their criticism is warranted.

Renewable energy growth is another area that will suffer under the plan. In 2030, fossil fuels will still supply the majority of the province’s energy needs (which includes not just electricity but fuel, natural gas and more). If the government were to meet its greenhouse gas targets, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, hydro and biofuels would need to supply the majority of energy used in B.C. in 2030.

British Columbians also risk missing out on opportunities if we don’t develop a strong climate plan. Thanks in part to B.C.’s 2008 climate plan, the province is home to the largest per-capita cluster of clean technology firms in Canada, representing a quarter of such companies across the country. These firms are poised to take advantage of the $1.1-trillion global market in clean technology—a market that’s expected to more than double in the next six years. In short, companies that thrive at home, thanks in part to a favourable environment, will be more competitive internationally.

The solution? As a first step, the government will need to fund and detail the policies in its current plan. Certain actions, such as expanding B.C.’s clean energy vehicle program, will need funding commitments in next year’s budget. In addition, the following policies and others will need more details and regulations:

  • B.C. committed to reducing upstream methane emissions by 45 per cent. The province will need to produce and implement that regulation for it to have an effect.
  • Similarly, the plan commits to amending energy efficiency regulations for buildings, but the government will need to produce and implement those regulations.
  • B.C. also plans to expand the low-carbon fuel standard from a 10 to 15 per cent intensity standard, which will require amending and implementing the regulation.

But even with these policies, carbon pollution from the aforementioned sectors is expected to grow in B.C. Reversing that trend will require additional action—and that can begin in 2017, when the government has committed to updating its climate plan.

A good place to start is the B.C. Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations. If implemented, they would reduce carbon pollution while maintaining economic growth and job creation in the province.

As for us, we’re looking forward to working on the details in the new year.

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