A potential showdown over the liquefied natural gas industry between British Columbia’s minority NDP government and its allies in the B.C. Green Party appears to have been averted as Green Leader Andrew Weaver negotiates a climate plan that includes the newly approved LNG Canada project.
Mr. Weaver said he will wait to see firm commitments in the NDP’s provincial budget next February, but he sees a path toward a clean-growth strategy that could accommodate the significant increase in greenhouse gas production that will come with the $40-billion LNG project announced this week.
That agreement seemed unlikely at the start of the year when B.C. Premier John Horgan set out on a trade mission to Asia, where he courted LNG Canada’s key partners. The Premier’s outreach prompted Mr. Weaver to threaten to bring down the minority government.
Mr. Weaver’s three-member caucus allowed the NDP to form a minority government in 2017 after signing a formal pact that included a commitment to climate action. But Mr. Weaver was caught off guard and furious about the Premier’s LNG trade mission.
The Greens would bring down the government and force an election if the NDP pursued an LNG industry, Mr. Weaver declared in January, because it would derail the climate action commitments that underpinned his support for the government. “You can’t have LNG and meet the targets," he said. "This is that sword I would die on.”
The province estimates that LNG Canada will generate, in phase one, 3.4 megatonnes of GHGs annually. That is close to a tenth of the total emissions that will be allowed in B.C. in the year 2030.
Premier Horgan made an emergency call to the Green leader while he was still abroad, inviting him to help craft a credible climate action plan.
Today, after “hundreds of hours” of meetings between the Greens and the NDP – including regular sessions between Mr. Weaver and Environment Minister George Heyman – the Green leader believes the clean-growth strategy that is now being finalized can reach the province’s targets to reduce GHG emissions in the next decade even with LNG Canada in production.
“George Heyman and I are rising to the challenge,” Mr. Weaver said in an interview. “I see a pathway to supporting an exciting plan in the clean-growth strategy.” He said that strategy embodies the Green’s economic agenda: shifting the economy toward a low-carbon future.
Mr. Heyman said he reached out to Mr. Weaver by acknowledging that adding an LNG sector would make it harder to reduce emissions. “My message to him was, ‘We both know that adding a chunk of greenhouse gas emissions from LNG makes meeting the targets I legislated difficult, but I don’t believe they make them impossible.’ ”
The NDP government passed legislation last spring to restore the province’s GHG reduction targets, and promised a renewed climate action strategy to be released in the fall.
But in a technical briefing provided to the media on Tuesday, senior government officials said more time is needed to work out how B.C. will meet those targets. The “intentions paper” that is expected to be announced in November will include a strategy to reduce emissions for transportation, buildings and industry. But that will still leave B.C. short of its goal to reduce GHG emissions to a total of 38.8 megatonnes in the year 2030. A second plan will be released in the spring that will be designed to close the rest of the gap.
Mr. Horgan went out of his way this week to credit the Green leader – who remains opposed to LNG – for helping his government craft the new plan. “Dr. Weaver is pivotal to our success on climate action," he said.