Andrew Weaver, the Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist who took up politics to salvage British Columbia’s climate-action plan, says he will step down as provincial Green leader next summer to make way for a new generation.
Mr. Weaver, who in 2013 became the first Green elected to the B.C. legislature, told reporters on Monday his efforts have paid off with the creation of the CleanBC climate-action program. He said he will remain the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head to preserve the province’s minority NDP government, propped up by the Greens.
“The stability of this government moving forward is my primary objective,” he said.
Mr. Weaver’s departure will mean a dramatic change for the party. Although he now shares the spotlight with two other MLAs – Adam Olsen and Sonia Furstenau – Mr. Weaver has defined the Greens in B.C. since his election in 2013 elevated the party from fringe status.
After the 2017 provincial election, the NDP and Greens entered into an agreement to maintain a minority government: The BC NDP holds 41 seats, the Greens three and the Opposition Liberals 42. Speaker of the House Darryl Plecas sits as an independent.
That agreement has given Mr. Weaver’s party the power to influence a long list of government policies over the past two years, from the province’s new climate-action plan to public funding for adult basic education.
Mr. Weaver said he spent the summer pondering his future. Watching the youth climate strikes around the globe helped inspire him to hand over the torch, he added, but a recent health scare “reaffirmed” his decision to rethink his work-life balance.
“It’s time to let another generation take the lead. I have given everything I have to this work," he said at a news conference at the legislature. "Soon it will be time for me to step aside and let a new leader who can take what I have accomplished, and make it better.”
Before turning to politics, Mr. Weaver was a lead author on four scientific assessments by the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change, the body that shared a Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. vice-president Al Gore in 2007. He said he reluctantly ran for office because he saw B.C.'s leadership on the climate file being dismantled.
George Hoberg, professor in the University of B.C.’s School of Public Policy, said Mr. Weaver’s achievements in politics are remarkable. “He was Canada’s most prominent climate scientist for a time, and he was able to parlay that notoriety into a seat, and then [in 2017] into a party with enough seats to put him in the position of running the climate file in partnership with the NDP.”
To do that, Mr. Weaver had to give ground on his opposition to the NDP’s approval of both the Site C dam, and the creation of a liquefied natural gas sector. Mr. Weaver called the approval of the LNG Canada project by the NDP government a “generational sellout,” but he backed down on threats to trigger an early election.
Instead, he agreed to work on developing CleanBC alongside the NDP’s Environment Minister George Heyman. Last week, Mr. Weaver and Mr. Heyman shared a national award for their efforts to set new targets to reduce the province’s GHG emissions by 40 per cent, relative to 2007 levels, in the next 11 years.
Mr. Weaver wants his party to conduct a leadership contest early next summer, to give the new leader time to build a profile ahead of the next scheduled provincial election, set for the fall of 2021.
Mr. Weaver, 57, said the job should be attractive. “This is an incredible opportunity: The B.C. Greens have never been as organized, nor have seen such widespread support as we see today.” There is also a record number of Greens elected across the country.
Premier John Horgan lauded Mr. Weaver for pushing to strengthen the province’s latest climate action plan. “His legacy will be his passion for climate action," Mr. Horgan told reporters. “The CleanBC plan, which leads the country, would not be as robust as it is today, were it not for his contribution.”
Mr. Horgan, who is 60, sidestepped questions about his own political future. He said he would not discuss the topic publicly without first speaking with his wife, Ellie Horgan. “I’ll keep doing this until I’m no longer effective," he added.
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