The controversial Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas project that has been conditionally approved by the federal government isn't compatible with B.C.'s current greenhouse gas emission targets, according to climate policy expert Kathyrn Harrison.

The project was approved with 109 conditions, one of which is a "hard cap" for yearly carbon emissions at 4.3 million tonnes.

But Harrison says that the cap only applies to the actual project facility, and doesn't incorporate emissions brought on by upstream developments — the production, processing and transportation of natural gas to the project.

According to the official environmental impact assessment, upstream productions would increase emissions by an additional 6.5 million tonnes.

"At the provincial level, B.C.'s [emission] target for 2050 is 13 million tonnes per year," said Harrison on CBC's The Early Edition

"[The Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas project] alone — which is expected to operate until 2050 — would contribute 10 to 10.5 million tonnes per year." 

Think global, act local?

Approval of the plan was co-announced by Premier Christy Clark, a longtime supporter of the project who made LNG development a major plank in her 2013 election campaign.

Clark further championed the approval at the Union of B.C. Municipalities event, saying that natural gas exports to China, Japan and other parts of the world will cut down on coal use and reduce overall global greenhouse gas emissions.

But according to Harrison, the project doesn't mesh well with the Liberal's recent commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"If voters are paying attention, it's really hypocritical," she added.

Earlier this summer, the province updated their emissions targets by committing to reduce GHG's to 80 per cent below 2007 levels by 2050, according to the Climate Leadership Plan

The same report also leans heavily on natural gas production as a strategy to reduce emissions, citing it as "the cleanest burning fossil fuel."

Pacific Northwest LNG 20160927

Catherine McKenna, centre, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, is flanked by Jim Carr, left, Minister of Natural Resources, and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark after the federal government announced approval of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

But Harrison says the two priorities are contradictory.

"Expansion of production of fossil fuels is just not compatible with reductions in greenhouse gas emissions," she said. "How can we square the circle between those two things? I really don't think it can be done."

According to the province's latest GHG inventory, natural gas accounted for 18 per cent — or 11.6 million tonnes — of emissions in 2014.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition and BC Almanac


To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Climate policy expert says emissions are far higher than advertised for approved LNG project