British Columbia

B.C. announces new climate strategy roadmap in advance of COP26 conference

After missing 2020 emission reduction targets the government has unveiled a plan to meet legislated targets for 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. 

Plan includes higher carbon pricing, new renewable fuel standards, accelerate zero-emission vehicles targets

A City of Vancouver cooling centre set up during the oppressive heat dome of June 2021, which caused hundreds of deaths across B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In an announcement that had the feel of a pep rally at times, the province unveiled new details aimed at addressing the climate emergency and achieving legislated greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.

"The science is clear," said Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman. "We need to rapidly move to clean energy in everything we do."

The CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 was released in advance of COP26, the upcoming United Nations conference on climate change starting in Glasgow, Scotland on Oct. 31.

The plan includes increasing carbon pricing, accelerating targets for zero-emission vehicle use in B.C., new standards for renewable fuels and greenhouse gas caps, and pushing industry to eliminate methane emissions. 

"We need to up our game," said Premier John Horgan. "British Columbians want to see action."

After missing its 2020 reduction target, the government is now focusing on the Paris 2030 goal of decreasing carbon emissions by 40 per cent compared to 2007 levels.

Many have questioned how the province can sell its climate plan while simultaneously subsidizing a growing liquefied natural gas industry.

On Twitter, B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau said the NDP's support of LNG puts a greater burden on the rest of the economy to make up the emissions gap.

"Between now and 2030, BC will see a marked increase in fracking as a result of the NDP's $6 billion giveaway to LNG Canada," she said. 

"The @bcndp's commitment to fossil fuel subsidies undermines B.C.'s ability to achieve CleanBC and truly be a climate leader." 

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs noted climate change disproportionately endangers Indigenous peoples and is calling for an end to the LNG and fracking industry in the province.

"The time is now to decrease oil and gas production in B.C. and get back on track to meet our environmental goals," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

Alan Andrews, climate program director for advocacy group EcoJustice, said B.C. has missed every climate target set to date with the latest data showing that emissions continue to rise. 

"Oil and gas is responsible for a fifth of B.C.'s carbon pollution and projected growth in this sector — heavily subsidized by the provincial government — will make it impossible to reach B.C.'s climate targets," said Andrews. 

Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada, said she's happy to see the plan in place, but what matters is not what is said, but what is done and when. 

"There's really no time to waste," she said.

During an interview Tuesday morning, Heyman told CBC's The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn that even if B.C. reduced emissions by 100 per cent tomorrow, climate change would still exist.

"That doesn't mean we shouldn't do anything, and it certainly doesn't mean we shouldn't be ambitious," he said.

Horgan cited increasing wild fires, declining salmon and extreme weather events like this summer's heat dome and the current weather bomb hitting B.C., as evidence there is no time to wait.

"We have to have the same common purpose to attacking climate change as we have attacking COVID-19," he said. 

Premier John Horgan announces the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

"We also need to ensure poorer people do not suffer and that government programs are in place to stimulate a transitioning economy."

Justin Trudeau congratulated Horgan on the plan on Monday, according to a release from the prime minister's office. 

Trudeau said the plan is similar to the one set out by the federal government, including increasing carbon tax, reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 75 per cent by 2030 and requiring 100 per cent of light-duty cars and trucks sold to be zero-emissions by 2035.

The CleanBC program was first introduced in 2018 to promote the use of cleaner energy and reduced emissions across all sectors. 

CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 targets eight areas: 

  • Increasing the price on carbon pollution to meet or exceed the federal benchmark with supports for people and businesses.
  • Requirements for new industry projects to have enforceable plans to reach B.C.'s legislated and sectoral targets and net zero by 2050.
  • Regulations that will nearly eliminate industrial methane emissions by 2035.
  • A comprehensive review of the oil and gas royalty system due Feb. 2022, to ensure it aligns with B.C.'s climate goals.
  • Requirements to make new buildings zero-carbon by 2030.
  • Faster adoption of zero-emission vehicles reaching 100 per cent by 2035.
  • Developing new ZEV targets for medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles.
  • Accelerated shift to active transportation and public transit reaching 50 per cent by 2050.
  • Better clean fuel and energy efficiency requirements. 
  • Support for innovation in areas like clean hydrogen, the forest-based bio-economy and negative emissions technology.

Have questions about COP26 or climate science, policy or politics? Email us: ask@cbc.ca. Your input helps inform our coverage.

With files from The Early Edition and On The Island

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