VANCOUVER — The first phase of the B.C. government's updated climate action plan, released today, fails to put the province on track to meet its emissions targets or commitments under the Paris Agreement.
"B.C. had a chance to show real leadership on climate action, so we are disappointed to see the province hesitate with a partial plan that relies largely on forestry offsets instead of actual reductions," said David Suzuki Foundation CEO Peter Robinson. "Instead of putting B.C. on track to reduce emissions, this plan prioritizes the incompatible goal of expanding the liquefied natural gas industry."
Jay Ritchlin, the Foundation's director for Western Canada, said, "With the Paris Agreement and the Canadian government setting the tone for bolder climate action, the province has released a plan that is underwhelming and will not get us the emissions reductions we need. While B.C. was once a North American climate leader, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta recently introduced stronger plans that are much closer to meeting climate targets. Jurisdictions that show leadership now in reducing emissions will benefit from job opportunities, not to mention better health and cost savings in years to come."
B.C.'s updated climate action plan doesn't mention or meet legislated 2020 emissions targets, nor does it include a provision to increase the carbon tax, one of the most effective emissions-reduction policies.
"This is a huge missed opportunity for B.C. to take positive steps to shift to clean technology and renewable energy solutions to build a strong and competitive economy," Ritchlin said.
Despite its flaws, the plan contains some publicly supported initiatives that will help cut emissions. Increasing low-carbon fuel standards, a crackdown on methane emissions from shale gas and natural gas production and additional financial incentives for electric and low-carbon vehicles are steps in the right direction. "While some of these initiatives will have an impact on emissions, we're still missing crucial dedicated provincial funding commitments to tackle emissions in transportation, one of the most polluting sectors in British Columbia," Robinson said.
Instead of relying heavily on forestry management, initiatives that would make the action plan stronger include:
- Legislated greenhouse gas targets for B.C.'s key sectors, including a target for 2030.
- Increased carbon tax applied to all emissions to accelerate the transition to clean energy.
- Joining California and other U.S. states to mandate a zero-emissions vehicle standard that requires a percentage of new vehicle sales in the province to be electric or hybrid.
- Increased provincial transit funding in the 2017 budget to leverage federal funds and/or enable additional revenue tools. B.C.'s current three-year fiscal plan (2016 budget) proposes a decline in provincial transit funding, while the federal government prepares to invest billions in a second funding phase for provinces and regions that are prepared to match the funds. Only 10 per cent of Metro Vancouver's 10-year Transit and Transportation Plan has been funded.
- Revisions to the building code that require new buildings to meet energy needs through onsite renewable energy within 10 years.
A Climate Leadership Team with representatives from government, academia, business, environmental sectors and First Nations brought forward 32 recommendations, only a fraction of which were included in this first phase of the plan. Nine years ago, B.C. introduced a climate action plan that included North America's first revenue-neutral carbon tax, earning the province accolades and demonstrating that leading climate policy can be accompanied by economic growth. B.C. is now slipping from that leadership position.
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