Why British Columbians Want to Speed the Shift to Clean Energy

new poll released this week not only reveals that most British Columbians are keen to transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy, but also highlights their motivations for doing so:

  • More than three quarters of British Columbians (78 per cent) agree that B.C. should transition away from using fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy to prevent climate change from getting worse.
  • More than two thirds (67 per cent) agree the province should decrease its reliance on fossil fuel exports to avoid future “boom and bust” economic cycles.
  • Three quarters (74 per cent) agree that the province has a good opportunity to create jobs and grow the economy by developing the solutions needed to transition away from fossil fuels.

Let’s unpack each of these results in turn.

Climate disruption

British Columbians are already seeing the impacts of climate disruption with their own eyes –noting stories such as the collapse of the scallop fishery due to ocean acidification, the closure of sawmills due to pine beetle kill, and the increase in fires and extreme weather events in neighbouring Alberta and around the world.

British Columbians know that climate disruption isn’t just an environmental issue, it will carry a huge economic toll as well. According to a 2011 analysis, climate disruption could cost the province $5 billion per year by the year 2020, and between $21 billion and $43 billion per year by 2050.

Though the province’s electricity is largely clean and renewable, we still have many opportunities to reduce carbon pollution in transportation and buildings. More than three quarters agree that climate disruption is an important reason to act on clean energy.

Boom and bust

When times are good in a resource economy they can be very good. But when they are bad, well, global commodity markets can be unforgiving. At the moment, the province’s North Coast region is going gangbusters as companies race to get a series of proposed liquefied natural gas plants up and running.

But this polling result suggests that British Columbians have seen this before and know that there is a better way forward for the economy than steadily increasing fossil-fuel exports.

More than two-thirds of British Columbians seem to recognize that we’ve built our wealth on resource exports, but also see the short-sightedness of relying on this model forever.

Clean energy economic opportunities

Last year, investors poured $254 billion into the global clean energy economy, with China leading the pack. For the first time, that nation generated more electric power from water, wind and solar than it did from fossil fuels and nuclear.

Though the Government of British Columbia primarily sees China as a market for carbon-based fuels — including the roughly eight million metric tonnes of thermal coal that pass through Port Metro Vancouver each year — the opportunity to export clean energy products and services is enormous. This could be anything from small wind turbines made in Surrey to “energy intelligence” software developed in Vancouver.

British Columbians — especially those between 18 and 34 — sense that the province is currently lagging behind many other countries in this growing global market, and are concerned that we will miss the boat as the world embraces a clean energy future.

The bottom line?

The new research shows that across the board, British Columbians want to transition away from fossil fuels and embrace clean energy — for the climate, and for the economy. They instinctively know the province is sitting on the sidelines of a global clean energy bonanza, and that the provincial government needs to change that through targeted policy today.


This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post’s blog.

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