Aug 19, 2016

The BC government’s updated climate (non-)plan: This is not leadership

By GhG

Today, after many months of delay (on a Friday afternoon in summer), the BC government finally released an updated “Climate Leadership Plan.” Except it isn’t one.

It’s not a plan, it’s not leadership, and it doesn’t get us nearly where we need to go on climate action. I see no notable shift from what I wrote back in May, when I accused the BC Government of being a “climate outlaw.”

It’s not a plan, it’s not leadership, and it doesn’t get us nearly where we need to go on climate action.

The government’s news release declares that today’s plan will reduce “net annual greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25 million tonnes below current forecasts by 2050.”

If we were to take this statement at face value, the news is bad enough. GHG emissions in BC today are about 63 million tones (MT). Therefore a reduction of 25 MT by 2050 is a reduction of about 40%. But the government’s legislated target is to reduce GHG by 80% by 2050 (which is itself insufficient, as we need to be fossil fuel free by then). So today’s announcement, under the best-case scenario, gets us only halfway to our legal target.

But notice the weasel words in today’s commitment: “net”, “up to”, and “below current forecasts.”

Currently, under status quo projections, GHG emissions are expected to rise. So a 25 MT reduction below current forecasts could actually mean GHGs in 2050 will be higher than today.

But I’m afraid the news is worse. Virtually all the measures announced today will have a marginal impact on GHGs. This is revealed in the most telling table in the government plan, found on the plan’s last page (p. 47). There we learn that half (12 MT) the projected GHG emission reductions in the plan are to come from better forest management and tree planting.

A 25 MT reduction below current forecasts could actually mean GHGs in 2050 will be higher than today.

Here’s the thing – while such forestry measures are welcome, they don’t actually cut carbon pollution emissions at all. Seeking to have our forests sequester more carbon is terrific, but the point of our GHG emission reduction law was to actually lower emissions.

Moreover, staking half your climate plan on forestry is highly risky. As we’ve unfortunately learned in recent years, forest fires and beetle epidemics can quickly turn our forests from carbon sinks into carbon sources, as burned and dead trees release all the carbon they store. And in a climate-changing world, the likelihood of both these risks only rises.

For an excellent analysis of why today’s plan fails the leadership test, see this post from Clean Energy Canada.

The environmentalists who served on the BC government’s Climate Leadership Team (CLT) are now deeply disappointed. Tzeporah Berman tweeted today, “I sat on the BC Climate Leadership Team. Number of our 32 recommendations accepted in full today? Zero.”

As has been widely reported, today’s plan has nothing on carbon pricing, even though annual increases to the carbon tax was the centrepiece of the CLT’s recommendations.

Those who gave their time to this “plan” have to be feeling very used. They contributed a great deal of time and produced a report last October—which the Premier was happy to wave around in Paris the next month—and then she shelved it.

This is not climate leadership.

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