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British Columbia B.C.’s emissions rising, figures show, as activists point finger at LNG

The Shell multi-well pad for the Groundbirch natural gas plant is pictured outside of Fort St. John, B.C., Oct. 11, 2018.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

British Columbia’s carbon footprint has been growing almost every year since 2010, according to the latest provincial government data, and environmentalists say reaching the 2030 reduction target is becoming impossible while new liquefied natural gas developments threaten any progress.

Figures from the report show that provincial emissions grew from 61.3 million tonnes to 62.3 million tonnes from 2015 to 2016. Emissions have also been trending upward since 2010, excluding a small decrease in 2014.

“We’re still living in a fossil-fuel-based economy, and we’ve experienced economic and population growth,” said Mark Jaccard, a professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management. “More people are driving more cars, and unless we make a significant leap towards electric vehicles, these emissions will continue to rise.”

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David Karn, a spokesman for the B.C. Ministry of Environment, said the province has been off track in achieving its carbon-reduction targets due to a lack of action since the implementation of the first climate action plan in 2007.

A revised carbon-reduction pledge, CleanBC, was made by the NDP government in 2018 after it said the previous Liberal government failed to do enough to meet the 2020 target of cutting emissions by 33 per cent of 2007 levels by 2020. The latest figures show that B.C. has reduced its carbon footprint by only 2.2 per cent since 2007. The new plan aims to reduce emissions by 40 per cent of 2007 levels by 2030, the equivalent of reducing emissions to 38 million tonnes.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says CleanBC has outlined steps to deliver 75 per cent of the required reduction to meet the provincial 2030 goal. The plan prioritizes a shift toward electricity and other renewable energy sources, and promises that every new car sold in B.C. will be a zero-emission vehicle by 2040.

This carbon-reduction pledge was made even as B.C. committed to supporting the liquefied natural gas industry.

The province says that building the Coastal GasLink pipeline and one half of the LNG Canada project will cause about four million tonnes of additional annual carbon pollution. This would equate to two years worth of emission cuts from all sources at the current rate.

Jens Wieting, a senior forest and climate campaigner at Sierra Club BC, says that building the Coastal GasLink pipeline and the LNG Canada project will make it impossible to meet B.C.’s emissions targets.

“These projects [make] it harder to close the gap towards meeting the 2030 target,” Mr. Wieting said. “It’s a step that would take us further in the wrong direction.”

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Unless 2017 and 2018 show surprise reductions, B.C. has only 12 years to reduce total carbon pollution by roughly 24 million tonnes, an average reduction of more than 3 per cent a year.

Mr. Karn said the province knows meeting the 2030 climate targets won’t be easy, but the emissions estimates for LNG Canada are included and accounted for in CleanBC.

Prof. Jaccard says more aggressive transportation policies could help reduce emissions significantly.

He says changes to the low carbon fuel standard are a good place to start. A low carbon fuel standard is a rule enacted to reduce carbon intensity in transportation fuels. Fuel suppliers in B.C. must ensure they have a minimum renewable fuel content of 5 per cent for gasoline. CleanBC aims to increase the low carbon fuel standard to 10 per cent by 2020, and 20 per cent by 2030. Prof. Jaccard says these requirements should be higher.

Road transportation topped all other sources of greenhouse gas emissions in 2016, contributing roughly 17 million tonnes to emissions. This was followed by mining, oil and gas consumption at 7.3 million tonnes, and manufacturing industries at 4.7 million tonnes.

In addition to the data, Mr. Wieting has raised concern over the provincial government’s lack of initiative in sharing the 2016 greenhouse gas emissions data. He said the government quietly released the data and made no efforts to share it with the public.

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Editor’s note: Jan. 16, 2019: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated a new plan aims to eliminate roughly 38 million tonnes of emissions. As well, Jens Wieting was incorrectly named.
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