The province is currently seeking feedback on its clean energy growth intentions paper. But act quickly, the deadline to submit feedback is fast approaching.
The province of British Columbia appears to be on a roll.
After committing to get B.C. “back on track” on climate change, the provincial government has introduced new greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) targets for 2030 and 2040 and increased the province’s carbon tax. Now it has released a series of three “Clean Growth Intentions Papers” outlining some high-level ideas on ways that cleaner transport, more efficient buildings and innovation in industry could put B.C. on the path to a low-carbon future.
Your feedback on these policies will help to shape the province’s long-awaited clean growth strategy, expected in the fall, which we hope will show how B.C. will meet its new targets and make up for 10 years of lost ground.
The papers contain some big and bold ideas, such as requiring car companies to supply a minimum percentage of electric vehicles and new financial incentives to upgrade heating and insulation in our homes. If they go ahead, these policies could go some way to restoring B.C.’s former status as a world leader on climate.
However, these good intentions will need to become firm commitments in the fall to convince anyone that B.C. is really Canada’s climate comeback kid.
That’s because we’ve been here before.
In 2007, the government set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050 — targets that were at the time some of the most aggressive in North America. The province also implemented the continent’s first broad-based carbon tax.
But more than a decade later, the province has made almost no progress.
With no significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the latest emissions inventory showing that emissions have actually increased in four out of the last five years, plans to actually achieve the targets were pitifully inadequate and gathered dust rather than cutting carbon.
For example, the Auditor General had this to say about the 2016 Plan: “The plan did not build a clear and measurable pathway to meeting the province’s emission reduction targets. The mitigation plan did not include a clear schedule for carrying out actions or detailed information about implementation.” This ultimately led to where we are today: the NDP scrapping the 2020 target and buying an extra ten years with new targets for 2030 and 2040.
This time around, we need to see more detailed plans, including the number crunching which shows how close these policies will take us to the targets, and how any gap is going to be filled. We need a clear timetable showing when these policies will be introduced. And we need these policies to be built on a solid legal foundation to ensure they’re up to scratch.
That’s where you come in. Right now the province wants to hear what you think about their papers on climate action. But you’ll have to act soon. The deadline to submit feedback is August 24, 2018.
It can be a daunting task to sit down and submit feedback to government on broad topics like greening infrastructure. But don’t worry. We’re here to help with a brief overview of what’s promising about the discussion papers and what still needs work. You can also check out the submissions from our friends at the Pembina Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Let’s celebrate the good
The ideas presented in these intentions papers are a promising sign of real progress on climate after years of inaction.
The focus on transportation is welcome given that it accounts for 40 per cent of B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions. With an ever-growing population and economy, that number will likely continue to rise in coming years if changes aren’t made. It’s easy to see that reducing emissions from transportation has great potential.
That’s why to encourage emissions reductions and clean growth in this sector, the B.C. government is proposing a sharp increase in zero emissions vehicles. More specifically, the proposal would see automakers being required to sell an increasing percentage of electric cars starting in 2020 — something California already does and the European Union is considering.
Unfortunately, the intention is to wait until 2040 before requiring that all new cars sold be zero emission vehicles, without explaining why B.C. couldn’t work to a faster timeline: by comparison France and Ireland are aiming for 2030.
Improving the energy efficiency of our homes is another no-brainer as it cuts carbon emissions and heating bills. The intentions paper suggests that there will be a new incentive program to help homeowners to install more efficient heating systems or improve insulation, but does not state who will be eligible or how many dollars will be on the table.
Overall, the discussion papers present some promising steps in the right direction but they’ll be all for naught if government doesn’t follow through when it comes to implementing them.
What needs to happen next
We are rooting for the B.C. government to succeed in getting the province back on track on climate action, but past experience tells us that good intentions will not be enough.
Without a strong, enforceable legal foundation these plans may end up gathering dust like those that came before or be undermined by a future change in government.
That’s why we need to make sure the government knows that British Columbians stand behind them when it comes to climate action. Let them know you want to see:
1. We need more than intentions. We need firm commitments to deliver these policies according to a clear and ambitious timetable. After 10 lost years of failing to take action, there is no time to lose;
2. More detail. We need to know how many tonnes of emissions cuts these policies will deliver and how the government are going to make up the shortfall — particularly after factoring in the massive increase in emissions that would result from their proposals for LNG development;
3. A commitment to reforming the legal framework so that government and industry are accountable for meeting climate targets, like they are in Sweden and Britain; and
4. Binding targets for the transport, building and industrial sectors. This is a must if we want to be able to hold the big polluters to account if they fail to meet expectations.
While we wait to hear more, we encourage you to submit feedback or participate in the online discussion boards and make your voice heard. There’s no more powerful force than when we work together.