B.C.’s Climate Leadership Plan focuses less on change to our climate and more on change in the BC Liberal’s piggy bank.
Last Friday afternoon, in a remote warehouse in Richmond, Premier Christy Clark delivered the long-overdue B.C. Climate Leadership Plan. She was flanked by people in white coats and an electric car, which she plugged in with the help of Minister of Environment, Mary Polak.
As if the scene couldn’t be more bizarre, the decor included a banner depicting B.C. as an Olympic swimmer out in front with other provinces racing to catch up.
Why all the bells and whistles? Well, good news is rarely delivered on a Friday afternoon and this announcement needed all the help it could get. Premier Clark’s so-called “Climate Leadership Plan” ignores nearly every major recommendation made by the Premier’s own hand-picked Climate Leadership Team. Rather, it seems closer to a thank-you note to BC Liberal industry friends.
The new climate plan will fail to make our province a climate leader, instead catering to the interests of big money BC Liberal donors while B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
The plan highlights a handful of specific sectors, including forestry, LNG and transit infrastructure. The main planks amount to naive window dressing: ‘plant a tree’, ‘don’t litter’ or ‘take the bus’. Once you scratch the surface, however, you begin to realize “climate leadership” really means something more sinister.
B.C.’s Climate Leadership Plan represents a major stimulus for the forestry industry, which has funnelled at least $5.8 million into BC Liberal bank accounts since 2005, according to research from public-interest watchdog Integrity B.C.
While planting trees is great, we’re living in an era of systemic environmental collapse, one where our province — a supposed “leader” — fails to account for something as simple as the carbon emissions created by forestry itself. It fudged the numbers by completely ignoring one half of the ledger.
Moving on to Clark’s favourite topic, Liquefied Natural/Fracked Gas. Considering science (which I imagine the Premier takes seriously, given her lab coat sporting friends), it seems a bit strange LNG has found itself as the centrepiece of B.C.’s climate plan.
The plan states that transitioning coal-burning countries to LNG would significantly decrease global emissions. To some extent this is true — as a recent report from the C.D. Howe Institute explains, if B.C.-produced LNG was exported only to coal dependent countries, global measures of greenhouse gases would decrease. However, LNG use in countries that do not completely rely on coal for energy could result in an increase of global emissions. And with markets so uncertain, it is impossible to guarantee where the product would end up.
Downstream emissions aside, the development of LNG infrastructure in B.C. could threaten Canada’s Paris commitments with as little as one single project: Pacific Northwest LNG. PNW is scheduled to be built on top of a critical salmon spawning habitat, and would single-handedly raise B.C.’s emissions as high as 14 per cent.
Pacific Northwest LNG, as only one example from the industry, has contributed more than $117,000 to BC Liberal coffers. Suddenly science isn’t so important.
The climate plan also brags about the government’s commitments to expanding public transit, specifically citing past examples of the construction of the Canada Line and the Evergreen Line. Both the Canada Line and the Evergreen Line contracts were awarded to SNC-Lavalin, who doesn’t have the best reputation, but has donated more than $27,000 to the BC Liberals.
And finally to the most myopic part of the climate plan – the continued freeze of B.C.’s carbon tax. By refusing to increase the tax, Clark completely abandons B.C.’s climate commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020.
Major Liberal donors in the oil and gas industry are the primary beneficiaries of Clark’s carbon tax freeze. Coincidentally, this same industry has given the BC Liberals at least $3.8 million dollars since 2005.
The Climate Leadership Plan is short sighted, looking not to how B.C. can truly move forward but rather to May 2017’s provincial election. To be fair, it must be hard to see with cartoon dollar signs in your eyes.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, our vision is clear. With low salmon populations, cracks in Antarctic ice shelves and diseases thawing in Northern Indigenous communities, the global effects of climate change are everywhere.
With rising sea levels, it won’t be long until that banner about British Columbia swimming isn’t just a metaphor.
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