B.C. has elected a new government and, with it, hopes for economic growth and opportunities. But we've also heard loudly during the election campaign that British Columbians don't want that growth to come at the expense of the environment.
We've heard that environmental leadership and action on climate change are important to British Columbians. These issues were a decisive factor in the 2009 B.C. election and remained important influencers this election as well. During the next four years, we look forward to engaging discussions on how we can uphold B.C.'s law and targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. British Columbians want to be part of the discussion on how we proceed with liquefied natural gas development. And they remain concerned about the impacts of pipeline expansions and potential tanker traffic increases.
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At the Foundation, our priorities support sound environmental solutions that improve the quality of life in communities including:
- Protecting B.C's coastal waters through participating in the marine planning process led by the provincial government and First Nations.
- Improving the effectiveness of B.C.'s carbon tax by closing the loophole that gave a free pass on emissions from natural and shale gas extraction (this will provide an incentive for industry to use cleaner technologies during natural gas production) and investing revenues into solutions like transit and renewable energy.
- Restoring B.C.'s rich wildlife and species at risk and taking responsibility to rebuild wild salmon.
- Working in partnership with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment to ban cancer causing chemical pesticides used on lawns and gardens.
- Strengthening BC's environmental assessment process.
- Prioritizing renewable energy.
The challenges remain. B.C.'s new government will have to balance the hidden deficit — the province's environmental and green infrastructure deficit: our communities are in dire need of funding to build public transportation and energy efficient infrastructure, species at risk need protecting, and climate action targets must be met. It's a moral imperative that B.C. doesn't pass this environmental debt on to our children.
While we've heard much about the potential economic windfall of liquefied natural gas development for the province, we haven't yet had a conversation on the potential environmental costs. The proposed developments put the province in danger of missing our climate targets by creating emissions that are even higher than those from Alberta's oilsands. As B.C.'s new government negotiates with industry on these developments, we're asking that they remain firm in supporting our province's commitments to climate leadership.
British Columbians have shown they have power to demand a better environmental future. B.C.'s climate action law was enacted because British Columbians demanded it. That's why I'm hopeful the new government can show climate leadership and encourage industry to drive environmental innovation. Otherwise, B.C. risks moving from climate leader to climate laggard and I don't believe British Columbians want that.
One message this election was clear: British Columbians want a strong sustainable economy and good jobs that don't come at the expense of the environment. Joining the conversation on how we get there will be key to addressing our environmental challenges.