B.C. was once known as a leader on pursuing climate change solutions as part of its economic strategy. That leadership is being eroded. In the province's 2014 budget, the environment and clean energy innovation lose out.
This budget again focuses on shale gas extraction for future liquefied natural gas (LNG) export, unveiling a proposed royalty regime should LNG plans materialize. The government committed $29 million over three years to entice the oil and gas industry to build processing plants with a streamlined environmental regulatory process, however B.C. did recommit to having "the cleanest LNG industry in the world" although provided no details as to how. It was a lot of fanfare for an industrial vision that very well may never see the light of day.
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But what's really troubling is that B.C. is falling out of step with other jurisdictions. Prioritizing a single fossil fuel resource industry at the expense of energy efficiency and the clean energy technology sector is a risky and outdated economic plan.
Families lose out when the environment isn't a budget priority. Take the popular LiveSmart home energy savings program, which helped British Columbians get energy audits and make investments to home energy efficiency. Families saved money and B.C.'s carbon emissions were slashed, yet the program was cancelled.
Families also win when we invest in public transit and reduce traffic by creating more reliable transportation choices. Delaying transit investment decisions in this budget and moving them to a plebiscite—while other major infrastructure projects get the green light—puts us further behind in responding to one of the most pressing environmental concerns many communities face.
With this budget, the B.C. government misses an opportunity to build an innovative, clean energy economy and green communities—steps that would truly put B.C. families first. Our province needs a long-term energy vision that invests in renewables, clean energy innovation and green jobs—one that would better shelter us from dramatic increases in energy prices.
Most alarmingly, the budget's direction is at odds with what leading scientists say is needed to address climate change. B.C. communities are already experiencing extreme weather and severe climate change-related events ranging from intense storms and flooding to the spread of the mountain pine beetle because of warmer winter temperatures.
Ignoring the climate realities of today and delaying a shift to a new, sustainable economy means we leave increasingly harder decisions for our children and their children. That's not fair. We need to make the shift now.