B.C.'s new climate plan criticized for lack of caps on LNG extraction
B.C. has released its latest plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but environmental groups and First Nations say it’s a problem that the plan doesn’t address liquid natural gas fracking.
On Monday, Premier John Horgan and Environment Minister George Heyman presented the plan alongside corporate leaders of a renewable energy company and a shipping company.
The CleanBC Roadmap is an update to the province’s existing plans, and sets a goal of reaching the Paris emissions reduction targets for 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2050. The announcement comes ahead of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in the U.K., which B.C. officials will attend.
"The CleanBC Roadmap puts greater focus on transitioning away from fossil fuels faster and adopting clean energy solutions,” Heyman said.
“It strengthens B.C.'s position to attract investment and build opportunity for British Columbians.”
The new plan increases taxes on carbon emissions, requires any new industrial projects to prove they can have net zero emissions by 2050, and requires that all new buildings have net zero carbon emissions by 2030. It also includes an “accelerated shift” towards alternative transportation methods – which means more investment in public transit.
It also includes a bigger push towards electric vehicles – which includes a goal of 10,000 public EV charging stations by 2030, that the only new cars sold in B.C. in 2035 are zero-emission, and that there are enough fast-charging stations so that EV users can drive on all B.C. highways, big and small, without running out of battery power.
These measures are applauded by various environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Stand.Earth and the Pembina Institute. Yet they all say B.C. isn't doing enough to tackle the fossil fuel industry.
The plan also includes “stronger regulations that will nearly eliminate industrial methane emissions by 2035,” a comprehensive review of the oil and gas royalty system, increased clean fuel and energy efficiency requirements, and investments in new clean energy technology.
But critics say the province needs to treat climate change as an emergency like it did the COVID-19 pandemic, and say that nine years is too far away. Sierra Club BC is disappointed that the plan doesn’t not include binding emission reduction targets in the intervening years.
“This plan would have actually been excellent 10 or 20 years ago,” Sierra Club BC climate justice campaigner Anjali Appadurai told CTV News Vancouver.
“But the level of the climate crisis right now with the impacts that we see already ... it's simply an unacceptable level of ambition, and we don't feel that the plan is actually treating this as the emergency that it is.”
Furthermore, she’s concerned with the lack of regulatory information and extraction caps on liquefied natural gas. This, Appadurai said, means that the good work being done on emission caps in other areas is at risk of being “neutralized” by emissions from LNG extraction, production and export to other countries .
“There was also no information provided on how the province will ensure emissions increase from building LNG terminals and expanding fracking will be kept below a certain level,” she said.
“The provincial government claims they will not allow emissions from the sector to impact the ability to meet its targets but there is no cap for LNG production or other binding mechanisms.”
Merran Smith, founder of Clean Energy Canada which is run through the Simon Fraser University Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, emceed the announcement and contributed to creating the plan. She says the plan allows for emissions caps to put on those in the oil and gas industry through policy and regulation. She also pointed to recent developments with LNG to say she doesn't think there's going to be an increased demand.
"Renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuel electricity in most parts of the world. And so, I don't predict that we are going to see any growth of the LNG sector," she told CTV News Vancouver.
Smith went on to explain that LNG was seen as a transition fuel for those dependent on fuel. But with prices of solar and wind power now more accessible, she says many countries could choose to skip the use of this fuel altogether.
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs is calling on the government to end LNG and fracking saying its incompatible with climate goals.
“It impacts the lands and waters, and also impacts our Indigenous way of life," Kukpi7 Judy Wilson told CTV News Vancouver.
She went on to say that wildfires, heatwaves and the impact on salmon are all evidence of climate change impacting B.C. and says the premier's argument that LNG is less dirty than coal, doesn't mean the fossil fuel is clean.
"We’ve seen all the wildfires over this summer. The facts are there. If we don't do anything, this is where we're already headed, and we need to make some drastic decisions," Wilson said.