Two weeks ago, Ontario took the wraps off its Climate Leadership Plan and the crowd went wild.
Okay, so perhaps we’re overstating things—but watchdog groups, industry and pundits widely praised Ontario’s policies that are expected to reduce carbon pollution substantially while creating jobs and clearing the air.
Just days before that, the Government of Alberta legislated its new carbon tax as the centerpiece of a climate plan that will also transform the province’s coal-reliant electricity system into that will also eliminate coal from the province’s electricity system in the next 14 years. Quebec is moving ahead with plans to decarbonize transportation, including legislation for zero-emission vehicles.
This is the national context in which B.C. Premier Christy Clark approaches the promised June delivery date on her government’s Climate Leadership Plan.
The stakes are high. B.C. secured an early lead on climate back in 2008 when then-premier Gordon Campbell introduced the province’s now world-famous carbon tax. It came with a suite of complementary policies that included a low-carbon fuel regulation, a ban on coal-fired electricity and a private sector power call for clean and renewable electricity.
But in recent years British Columbia has gotten off course.
Between 2010 and 2014, carbon pollution in British Columbia increased by two million tonnes.
Between 2010 and 2014, carbon pollution in British Columbia increased by two million tonnes—roughly the same as adding half a million additional vehicles to the roads. Environment and Climate Change Canada projections show these emissions climbing another 20 million tonnes by 2030, a 32 per cent increase from today.
If it continues down that path, B.C. will have the highest emissions growth of any province.
Fortunately, there is a roadmap that would put our province back on track. In October, the Climate Leadership Team—an advisory group appointed by the government representing municipalities, First Nations, industry, academia, and think tanks—submitted its recommendations to the premier. The team’s 32-item list covered transportation, buildings, electricity, and more.
If the province adopts all its recommendations, including an increasing carbon price, British Columbia will reclaim its leadership position.
Last November, groups representing more than a thousand B.C. organizations, companies, and local governments called for an ambitious climate plan. Soon after, more than 75 companies, organizations and local governments called on the government to take action to reduce carbon pollution from the buildings sector. In March, 166 businesses endorsed the idea of further increases to the carbon tax—one of the team’s recommendations. And in April, the B.C. Mayors Climate Leadership Council endorsed the Climate Leadership Team’s game plan.
Perhaps all of these supporters read the recent study by Clean Energy Canada and Navius Research. It concluded that strong climate leadership would attract an additional $5 billion of renewable energy investment to British Columbia over the coming decade. In a study undertaken for the Clean Energy Association of B.C., MNP Consulting found that private-sector clean energy companies have invested $8.6 billion in capital, creating 20,500 direct construction jobs. But once the final wind, hydro and biomass projects from the 2008 Clean Power Call are completed, there will be few new prospects for clean power developers, or the accompanying construction jobs.
The Government of British Columbia has in its hands a roadmap to reach its 2050 climate target. The map includes standards for clean buildings, vehicles and industry, incentives to help in the transition, and a rising carbon price. Together these policies will help create clean jobs, cleaner environments and rejuvenated economies for First Nations as well as urban and rural communities. If Premier Clark embraces the recommendations of the advisors she chose and appointed, British Columbia will regain its position as a Canadian and global climate leader.
Canada is on a climate-action winning streak. We’ve seen strong leadership lately from the Trudeau government, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. Now is the right time for British Columbia to step back up with a new plan to hit its climate targets and win the credibility, investment dollars and global spotlight that comes with being a clean energy leader.
Written by: Jeremy Moorhouse, Clean Energy Canada and Paul Kariya, Clean Energy Association of B.C. on behalf of the Energy Forum – a collaboration of clean power producers and non-governmental organizations in British Columbia.