A mayor from a town on Vancouver Island, a familiar figure in Vancouver municipal politics and an adviser with an environmental foundation have joined the body advising and assessing the provincial government on climate policy.
Environment Minister George Heyman last week welcomed Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples, TransLink director Andrea Reimer and David Suzuki Foundation adviser Tom Green as new members of Climate Solutions Council consisting of environmental organizations, industry, academia, First Nations, labour, local government and youth.
According to the official description, the council provides “strategic advice” to government on “climate action and clean economic growth.”
Leaving the council are Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority, and Ian Bruce, former deputy executive director of the David Suzuki Foundation.
Heyman said that the body “continues to significantly contribute” to the implementation of the CleanBC plan and the CleanBC Roadmap, the provincial plan to lower carbon emissions by 40 per cent (from 2007 levels) by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent by 2050.
B.C. is currently not on track to meet its 2030 goals and the latest available report from the council points to this gap.
Citing the latest figures from the government’s 2022 Climate Change Accountability Report, the council notes that B.C. will fall short 0.8 million tonnes of meeting the 2030 goals. The council calls on government to “accelerate” the implementation of the road map by “quickly” developing additional policies, rules, regulations and programs.
While all sectors must do their part, the council said it is “particularly concerned” about the oil and gas, transportation, and building sectors.
“With respect to oil and gas, there are numerous proposed LNG terminals that, if built, would lead to direct emissions — and significant indirect emissions from the upstream production and transport of gas — beyond those factored into the (roadmap’s) current projections,” it reads.
This criticism echoes complaints from parts of the political opposition inside the legislature (BC Greens) and outside of it (various environmental groups) that B.C. cannot reconcile environmental goals with future exploration and exploitation of oil and gas fields.
The oil and gas sector is responsible for about 50 per cent of B.C.’s industrial emissions and 20 per cent of B.C.’s total emissions. To meet the 2030 goals, the oil and gas sector must reduce its emissions by 33 to 38 per cent, never mind add to them.
Recent announcements from government point to a shift in thinking with work on-going.
Premier David Eby said in March a new framework will require new liquefied natural gas facilities to have a “credible plan” for net-zero emissions by 2030 and the province will cap industry emissions with a new report released in mid-July capturing some of the work on the proposed cap so far.
A new task force within BC Hydro will also speed up the electrification of the province with a focus on renewable energies. Eby has also repeatedly pointed out that companies currently in the LNG business are also interested in partnering with the province on renewable energies.
As for the transport sector, the council notes its emissions are “rapidly heading” in the wrong direction in presenting a particular challenge. Equally challenging are efforts to retrofit the extensive stock of existing buildings, the council notes.
This tone of more-needs-to-be-done-more-quickly also runs through the statements of the new council appointees.
Staples said B.C. faces “urgent climate challenges” in wanting to work collaboratively, while Reimer said “we need courageous climate action more than ever.”
Green perhaps sums it up the best.
“All the indicators show that we must do more, so it is an honour to join the Climate Solutions Council to provide independent advice to the minister on strategic policies to lower B.C.’s emissions in line with what the science tells us is necessary,” Green said.
Heyman himself acknowledges the need to do more. “I welcome the new members joining the council to accelerate implementation of climate action under our CleanBC climate plan,” he said.
-with files from Canadian Press.