B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman has unveiled the NDP-Green government’s brave new greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, without giving any real hint of how these will succeed where decades of previous targets have not.
The old targets from the Gordon Campbell government were based on 2007 emissions, announced as B.C. adopted Canada’s first significant carbon tax on fuels in 2008. They were a 33 per cent reduction by 2020, and a breath-taking 80 per cent by 2050.
Former premier Christy Clark acknowledged a couple of years ago that the first target wasn’t going to be met, as her government worked overtime to develop a liquefied natural gas export industry. Heyman formalized that in legislation presented last week.
The new target is a 40 per cent reduction by 2030, based on 2007 levels. The 2050 target of 80 per cent less carbon dioxide and equivalent gases remains, looking about as achievable now as it did when it was set a decade ago. To make it, barring some sort of technological miracle, much of B.C. will be back to using horses and buggies, if not depopulated.
Reporters had a brief hallway scrum with Heyman to ask about the strategy. I’ve been following this stuff since Canada signed on to the failed Kyoto Protocol in 1992, and the political soft-shoe dance hasn’t changed much.
Reporter: Aren’t these pretty ambitious targets, minister?
Heyman: “They are ambitious, and we’ll be detailing over the next months particular measures, whether it’s in transportation, whether it’s in energy savings, in buildings and homes, whether it’s reductions in emissions in industry, about how we propose to bring those down.
Reporter: What’s different now from 10 years ago?
Heyman: “We’re building a plan. We expect to work with all industries to see how we’re going to meet the reductions they need to make overall. What we certainly don’t want to do is disadvantage any industry in B.C.”
Reporter: Do these new targets take into account your latest incentives for LNG Canada?
Heyman: “We have to see how we can meet an overall industrial emission reduction target, and where any increase in certain industries would fit into that. Our government was very clear to the proponent that we’re setting targets and it all had to fit.”
Translation: Building a plan means there still isn’t one. Not disadvantaging B.C. industries is a fabrication. Powdered cement is already being imported from the U.S. and China.
So how far are we from reducing B.C. emissions by a third, as 2020 approaches? I wish I could tell you, but neither the federal or provincial government is very forthcoming with that information. The most recent data I could find from either source is from 2015, showing a modest reduction between 2005 and 2015.
The previous B.C. government provided some emission tracking data as the carbon tax started going up in small steps. It showed a big drop-off after 2008, which everyone except then-environment minister Terry Lake acknowledged was a result of a world-wide recession and financial crisis that ground investment and construction to a halt.
The B.C. economy was ticking along pretty well in 2007, lots of cars and trucks being bought, lots of construction and so on. Nothing like today, however, with population up substantially and concrete high-rise construction everywhere you look in major urban centres. Our gasoline prices are at record highs, and despite that I’m pretty sure our greenhouse gas emissions are too.
The only real plan so far is to keep raising taxes until emissions fall.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: [email protected]