BC takes leadership role on climate change
Noting that BC’s greenhouse gas emissions are 35 per cent higher now than in 1990, the Throne Speech declared that determined action on climate change is required to arrest and reverse that trend. It set a goal to reduce B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 per cent below current levels by 2020, which will place the provinces greenhouse gas emissions at 10 per cent under 1990 levels by 2020. Interim targets will be set for 2012 and 2016 and action will be taken as required to meet them.
Soon-to-be released climate action and energy plans will be complemented by an air quality improvement initiative designed to meet or beat the best practices in North America for reducing carbon and other greenhouse gases.
A Climate Action Team will be established to work with First Nations, other governments, industries, environmental organizations, and the scientific community to determine viable sector targets for 2012 and 2016. It will also identify practicable options to make the government of British Columbia carbon neutral by 2010. A longer-term emissions reduction target for 2050 will also be established.
The government’s climate change and energy strategies rest on a set of defining principles and regulatory actions:
- The new energy plan will require British Columbia to be electricity self-sufficient by 2016.
- A new personal conservation ethic will guide citizen actions in the years ahead.
- All new and existing electricity produced in B.C. will have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.
- A new requirement for zero flaring at producing wells and production facilities will be introduced.
- The energy plan will require that at least 90 per cent of the provinces electricity comes from clean, renewable sources.
- Effective immediately, British Columbia will become the first jurisdiction in North America, if not the world, to require 100 per cent carbon sequestration for any coal-fired project.
- A new $25-million Innovative Clean Energy Fund will be established to encourage the commercialization of alternative energy solutions and new solutions for clean remote energy. This will include bioenergy, geothermal energy, tidal, run-of-the-river, solar, wind power and bio-mass using trees infested by the mountain pine beetle.
- Beehive burners will be eliminated in British Columbia.
- New requirements will be introduced for methane capture in landfills, which account for nine per cent of B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- New technologies will be encouraged to “green the grid” and reduce energy losses in transmission.
Premier Campbell will meet the governors of Washington and California to work in partnership on several of these and other initiatives to reduce net greenhouse gases in the Pacific Coast Region, to address the impacts of climate change on ocean resources and to establish common environmental standards for all Pacific ports. Efforts will be made to electrify BC’s ports and to reduce container ship carbon emissions.
Also promised is an undertaking to work with the federal government and Pacific Coast partners from Alaska to California to develop a system for registering, trading, and purchasing carbon offsets and carbon credits.
Because transportation represents about 40 per cent of B.C.’s total greenhouse gas emissions, the province will work with its neighbours to electrify truck stops and to support other anti-idling measures for heavy vehicles. A federal-provincial partnership will be investing $89 million for new hydrogen fuelling stations as part of the initial phase of the hydrogen highway and introduction of the world’s first fleet of 20 fuel cell buses. BC will work with California and other Pacific states to push for a hydrogen highway that runs from Whistler to San Diego by 2010.
The climate change merits of the province’s Gateway Project were cited with respect to reducing congestion, improving traffic flow, and lowering emissions from vehicle idling. Transit improvements will provide better connections between Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley and Surrey to Coquitlam and Vancouver. New regional transit options were promised for urban areas in the Lower Mainland, the Fraser Valley, the Capital Regional District and the Okanagan.
A new $40-million LocalMotion Fund will also help local governments build walkways, cycling paths, disability access, and other improvements aimed at getting people out of their cars and back on their feet.
New tailpipe emission standards for all new vehicles sold in B.C. will be phased in over the period 2009 to 2016 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 per cent for automobiles. A new low-carbon fuel standard will reduce the carbon intensity of passenger vehicles by at least 10 per cent by 2020, reinforcing the impact of existing fuel tax exemptions for ethanol and biodiesel portions of fuels blended with gasoline and diesel.
To encourage the switch to more fuel efficient vehicles, the $2,000 sales tax exemption on new hybrid vehicles will be extended to help make these cars more affordable. All new cars leased or purchased by the provincial government will be hybrid vehicles.
New strategies were promised to promote Pacific Green universities, colleges, hospitals, schools, prisons, ferries, and airports and a new unified B.C. Green Building Code will be developed over the next year with industry, professional, and community representatives. Incentives will be implemented to retrofit existing homes and buildings to make them more energy efficient, and new measures will be taken to help homeowners undertake “energy audits” that show them where and how savings can be achieved. New real-time, in-home smart metering will be launched to help homeowners measure and reduce their energy consumption.
While details were not spelled out in the Throne Speech, over the next year, the Province will consider measures aimed at encouraging personal choices that are environmentally responsible, including taxation incentives for shifts in behaviour that reduce carbon consumption.
Conservation measures will be key to achieving the government’s climate change plan. To this end, public education and information measures will be introduced to encourage behavioral changes that reduce individual impacts on the environment. A new Citizens’ Conservation Council will be established and funded.
Investment in carbon sinks will be undertaken, including increased tree-planting efforts to increase the amount of carbon that is offset each year through reforestation and forestation activities. A new Green Cities Project will foster innovations to reduce environmental impacts in urban areas through sustainable community planning, and the promotion of “urban forestry” and new community gardens.
In all, the strategy outlined in the Throne Speech places British Columbia far and away in the lead in Canada in terms of concerted planning to deal with climate change. It ranges from tough regulatory measures to force compliance with more stringent emissions reduction requirements to public education and the use of market-based measures such as carbon credit trading to encourage changes behaviour on the part of individuals and businesses.
Commenting on the BC agenda, GLOBE Foundation President and CEO Dr. John Wiebe noted that “environmental leadership begins with a clear vision for a sustainable future’ and a realistic strategy or plan to achieve that vision. The vision and strategy outlined in yesterday’s Speech from the Throne is a clear example of leadership and the government of British Columbia should be commended for showing that where there is the will, there is indeed the way to a sustainable future.”
The GLOBE Foundation will soon release a report on its Endless Energy project, an exploration of the implications of energy self-sufficiency for British Columbia by 2025, based on indigenous renewable and clean energy sources and conservation measures.
For More Information: Government of British Columbia