British Columbia

B.C.'s delayed Climate Leadership Plan expected today

Christy Clark's B.C. Liberal government is set to release its Climate Leadership Plan at 1 p.m. today. Watch the announcement here live.

Watch the announcement here live at 1 p.m. PT

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is expected to unveil the province's Climate Leadership Plan today, Friday, as critics complain B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. (Canadian Press and Reuters)

Christy Clark's B.C. Liberal government says it will release its Climate Leadership Plan today, following years of inaction that critics blame for rising greenhouse gas emissions and a likelihood the province won't meet its own legislated climate targets.

Eight years ago, then Premier Gordon Campbell launched the province's Climate Action Plan, which established the B.C. carbon tax, legislated emission reduction targets and other policies.

Since Clark succeeded Campbell as Liberal leader and premier in 2011, she has frozen the carbon tax, which was supposed to rise over time, and failed to replace it with any policy to tackle rising emissions, said Mark Jaccard, a professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University and former climate adviser to Campbell.

"She has not taken any action on climate. She has shown no leadership," said Jaccard.

"While she was talking about B.C. being  a leader and her being a leader by inference, she was actually the antithesis of a leader, so that puts her in the cynical category."

Greenhouse gas emissions in B.C. have risen since 2012, making it "extremely difficult" for the province to meet its own legislated target for 2020 of cutting emissions by one-third from 2007 levels, according to the province's Climate Leadership Team report.

Then B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, shown signing an agreement to fight global warming alongside then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, brought in B.C.'s carbon tax and other leading climate policies. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

Delay by consultation?

What Clark has done, for the past year and a half, is gather expert and public opinion on what to do about climate change, a strategy Jaccard derides as a stalling tactic. (He was asked to join the government's Climate Leadership Team, which delivered its recommendations last October, but declined, writing in a Vancouver Sun op-ed that it was an excuse to delay.)

The plan itself was due out last spring, but is instead being released today — on a Friday afternoon in August.

Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada and a member of the Climate Leadership Team, is also critical of B.C.'s recent record, while Quebec and Ontario have taken action.

"We're seeing leadership from the federal government as well, and it's really disappointing that so far we are not seeing that kind of leadership from B.C.'s government and from the Christy Clark government."

Despite playing a role in the process that led to today's announcement, she's "not optimistic" the plan will deliver.

Premier Christy Clark, shown in March arriving at an electric car announcement, has been criticized by some for not taking any action on climate change. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

Future of carbon tax in question

The recommendation from the Climate Leadership Team that has received the most attention is to raise B.C.'s carbon tax from the current price of $30 per tonne of emissions — increasing the tax by $10 per tonne per year, starting in July 2018.

More than 130 businesses have signed a letter in favour of the higher carbon tax, while a coalition of northeastern B.C. municipalities and businesses has asked for the tax to remain frozen.

There is already much speculation it won't be raised. A Globe and Mail report from an unnamed source says a change to the carbon price is not in the plan.

Jaccard, who helped craft B.C.'s original carbon tax, said it doesn't matter to him whether the government uses an increasing carbon tax or some other policy — like a cap-and-trade system with falling emissions caps, as Ontario and Quebec have done, or a suite of regulations.

But he says the action needs to be compulsory and increasing in stringency over time to change behaviours toward lower emissions.

"You will know she's faking it if the climate plan doesn't have the compulsory policies I'm talking about, increasing in stringency ... If you don't have those things, it's bogus."

The Pembina Institute's Josha MacNab still thinks the carbon tax is the best tool for the job, and Smith agrees with that view.

"There are other ways to get B.C. on track … but likely they're just not as effective or as efficient" as the carbon tax, said MacNab.

Smith said she'll look for what the Climate Leadership Plan actually commits the government to do.

"Are there the policies and the dollars committed to back it up? Without [that], it will just be some vague promises that [aren't] going to amount to real carbon pollution reduction."

Clark has promoted the effectiveness of the carbon tax in fighting carbon emissions, but also promoted development of liquefied natural gas, a fossil fuel. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

About the Author

Lisa Johnson is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news around the province with a specialty in science, nature, and making sense of complicated things. Before becoming a journalist she pipetted DNA and watched fish mating dances en route to a degree in evolutionary ecology.

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