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British Columbia B.C.’s climate targets will be impossible to reach if LNG Canada project goes ahead, critics say

Environmentalists are warning that it will be impossible for British Columbia to reach its climate targets if a Shell-led liquefied natural gas project forges ahead along the northern coast.

The BC NDP government has suggested that other industries would need to sharply reduce their greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions should the LNG Canada project in Kitimat get built.

Hannah Askew, executive director of Sierra Club BC, said in a letter this week to Premier John Horgan that the NDP’s support for LNG Canada means the government believes “every other industry, business, community and individual in B.C. should be required to drive GHG reductions at a significantly accelerated rate.”

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Last week, Mr. Horgan said it will take sacrifices from other sectors to secure LNG projects for B.C. and still decrease the province’s carbon footprint. “If we have an increase in emissions from the advent of LNG, then we are going to have to see concurrent reductions in other sectors," he said.

Ms. Askew sent her letter as Shell and four co-owners of LNG Canada assess whether to proceed with the project. The consortium is expected to make a final investment decision by the end of 2018.

“We will have a hard enough time meeting our existing targets without the addition of LNG Canada. B.C. is not yet even close to meeting the weak target set by the previous government, reducing emissions by 33 per cent by 2020, compared to 2007,” she said. B.C. emitted more than 65 million tonnes of GHGs in 2007, and environmentalists say the level of annual emissions has barely budged since then.

Ms. Askew’s letter is copied to Environment and Climate Change Minister George Heyman and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall. Mr. Heyman is a former executive director of Sierra Club BC.

Attaining B.C.'s target of the equivalent of 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2050 isn’t credible, given that GHG emissions from LNG Canada alone could be 8.6 million tonnes a year, Ms. Askew said. That estimate for the project is based on total emissions that include producers drilling northeast B.C. natural gas wells and LNG Canada operating the export terminal in Kitimat.

Clean-energy think tank Pembina Institute also warns that British Columbia won’t be able to meet its commitments to reduce emissions.

But LNG Canada said the global picture needs to be taken into account because exporting LNG to Asia will help curb pollution abroad.

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“We purposefully designed LNG Canada to be the top-performing large LNG facility in the world, with emissions that would be at least 30 per cent lower than new LNG facilities being built in the U.S. Gulf Coast, and 50 per cent lower than the average facility currently operating today,” Susannah Pierce, LNG Canada’s director of external relations, said in a statement on Thursday to The Globe and Mail.

Wenran Jiang, a senior fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Institute of Asian Research, said LNG Canada is well-positioned to assist countries such as China shift away from coal-fired power plants.

The previous BC Liberal government touted LNG as the ticket to economic prosperity, but no projects are under construction in the province.

Jock Finlayson, chief policy officer at the Business Council of British Columbia, said his group’s members support the province’s fledgling LNG sector, and the NDP government needs to tread carefully in supporting LNG Canada while addressing climate goals. “We are keen on seeing LNG move ahead, but we’re also very sensitive to the costs of doing business for all the other industries here,” he said in an interview. “The province will have to decide how to balance competing objectives.”

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