British Columbia

B.C. greenhouse gas emissions still near 2007 levels, ministry says

The B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change released data Monday measuring 64.46 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 compared to 64.76 million tonnes in 2007 — a drop of less than one per cent.

Emissions dropped less than 1% between 2007 and 2017, data shows, despite strategies including carbon tax

Motorists merge from four lanes into one as they enter the Lions Gate Bridge to drive into Vancouver, B.C. Data released by the environment ministry Monday shows the province's greenhouse gas emissions dropped less than one per cent between 2007 and 2017, despite a carbon tax being in effect for nine of those years. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Carbon emissions in B.C. in 2017 were only slightly below 2007 levels despite a long-running strategy to fight climate change that includes a carbon tax, new data shows.

The province's environment ministry released data Monday measuring 64.46 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 compared to 64.76 million tonnes in 2007 — a drop of less than one per cent over 10 years.

"There's no question we have a lot of work to do, and we have no question that it's challenging, not just for us, obviously, but for Canada and the world,'' said Environment Minister George Heyman.

B.C. implemented North America's first broad-based carbon tax in 2008 to put a price on carbon pollution, which currently stands at $40 per tonne and is slated to increase to $50 per tonne by 2021. The current carbon tax amounts to about nine cents per litre of gasoline and other fuels.

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Minister of Environment and Climate Change George Heyman speak to the media in downtown Vancouver on June 18, 2019. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Heyman said the 2017 data does not include results from the province's CleanBC climate plan that set targets last December to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent by 2050.

CleanBC will require new buildings to be net-zero energy by 2032 and all new cars sold to be zero-emission by 2040. Carbon tax revenues will be used to offer incentives to energy efficient initiatives.

The emissions data is published on a two-year delay to allow agencies to assemble the information and it is based primarily on the federal government's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory report, which is submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The data tracks greenhouse gas emissions attributed from most industries, including transportation, mining, waste, and oil and gas. It also includes emissions from domestic vehicle use. It did not include emissions data from B.C.'s record wildfire season that had many communities blanketed with smoke.

A wildfire near Williams Lake, B.C., in July 2017. The greenhouse gas emissions data does not include the impact of wildfires. ( THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

The ministry said 2017 emissions fell in several sectors including petroleum, oil and gas extraction, road transport, and public electricity and heat production. Sectors where emission increased included manufacturing, off-road transport, residential construction and agriculture.

Heyman said the increases in emissions were associated with B.C.'s growing economy in 2017.

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said he was concerned with the emissions levels, saying ordinary B.C. residents are doing their part to fight pollution, but industry emissions are largely rising.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver speaks to reporters outside the legislature on June 18, 2019. Weaver said industry emissions are largely rising, while British Columbians cut back. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

He said the carbon tax has spurred innovations in the green economy and prompted people to conserve energy, but government programs to support liquefied natural gas and oil and gas extraction will increase greenhouse gas emissions.

"It's no wonder our emissions go up collectively and it's no wonder people get upset,'' he said.

Heyman said he expects climate change to be a major issue during the coming fall federal election.

"B.C. continues to have a strong economy even as we've maintained the carbon tax,'' he said. "Most British Columbians and most Canadians very seriously want governments to take meaningful action to address climate change.''