British Columbia

B.C. politicians must focus more on phasing out fossil fuels, report says

The report said the province's continued interest in expanding production and export of fossil fuels suggests there's little political will to think about a plan to move away from those industries.

Province ill prepared to transition to a green economy, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says

A smokestack at the Teck Mining Company's zinc and lead smelting and refining complex in Trail, B.C., on Nov. 26, 2012. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Politicians in British Columbia aren't focused enough on phasing out fossil fuel industries, a new report says.

The report, authored by the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says the province must move away from fossil fuel industries by mid-century in order to meet its climate targets, but adds that the B.C. government is ill prepared to transition to a green economy.

"We are totally moving in the wrong direction," said economist Marc Lee, one of the authors of the report, on The Early Edition Wednesday. 

He said most of the emphasis of B.C. government policy has been on slowing reductions in emissions from transportation or emissions from buildings, while still subsidizing fossil fuel extraction, such as fracking projects, that Lee said should be phased out.

"What we are putting on the table is politically unthinkable right now," said Lee, adding that last month's provincial budget called for a 26 per cent increased gas production over the next three years.

He said B.C. needs to start thinking instead about how its going to wind down its dependence on fossil fuel industries.

'Greener' job transition needed

The report said the provincial government's continued interest in expanding production and exporting fossil fuels suggests little political will to think about a plan to move away from them.

It suggests the threat of major job losses in those industries is contributing to the political inaction, but cited several examples of ways governments can help move workers into greener jobs. 

Lee said early retirement provisions or income replacement for transitioning workers are options to consider.

"We actually have seen a lot of real-world policy around transition starting to happen, including in Alberta, which brought in a whole transition package for coal workers producing coal for electricity generation," Lee said.

Lee also said well-paying jobs could be created by, for example, remediating old coal mines and gas wells and building green infrastructure and renewable energy projects in affected areas.

The report also calls for a moratorium on new fossil fuel leases and ending fossil fuel subsidies, as well as creating carbon budgets and fossil fuel production limits.

"Change is coming," said Lee. "We need to get out ahead of it."

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