The liquefied natural gas industry that B.C.’s government has been courting would have to fit in with the province’s tough new targets for reductions in greenhouse gases if it wants to do business in B.C., NDP Environment Minister George Heyman says.
“We’re not creating a climate-action strategy around LNG,” Mr. Heyman said in an interview on Tuesday. “We’re creating a climate-action strategy, and LNG [proponents] and the measures they can take to show us what their final lowest emissions can be in an overall context of reduced industry emissions will fit and have to fit.”
The NDP this week committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent in the next 12 years, with cuts going to 60 per cent by 2040. The province is already committed to 80-per-cent reductions by 2050.
Critics − including the B.C. Green caucus, which has been supporting the NDP government − are skeptical that the NDP can have a robust climate-change strategy and an LNG sector.
During a trip to Asia earlier this year, Premier John Horgan met with backers of a proposed LNG facility for the B.C. coast, but said any such projects would have to be in sync with his government’s climate-action plans.
Mr. Heyman echoed that on Tuesday.
“We’ve said that’s a condition. A condition is something you have to meet to proceed.”
Mr. Heyman said details of how it will all fit together will be worked out in the coming months.
The NDP will develop that plan for release in the fall aimed at reducing emissions from transportation and industry, each at around 39 per cent of emissions, and “very aggressively” in buildings and communities, which account for 22 per cent.
He said he has been meeting with representatives of the forestry, oil and gas and other industries. “They understand their social license depends on being as low-carbon as possible,” he said.
Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Greens, who has been critical of the NDP’s interest in LNG to the point of musing about voting down the government on the issue, said on Tuesday that he still thinks it is impossible to meet the targets with a major LNG facility, but added, “It doesn’t preclude smaller facilities from being introduced.”
A decade ago, the former BC Liberal government promised to cut emissions by 33 per cent by 2020, but announced, in 2015, that it could not hit that target.
Mr. Heyman said the NDP hopes to do better than the Liberals by engaging the public and stakeholders on their goals, and plans on being accountable for the results. “We’re going to not just talk about it and forget about it, but report on a regular basis. We are committed to meeting the targets.”
Mr. Weaver said he knows the civil service has been looking at policy measures for years to reach the goal. “It’s like buttons, knobs and switches. The appropriate buttons, knobs and switches that are going to be used will be put together in the coming months for a full package to be put together in the fall,” he said.
Environmental groups responded to the NDP targets by suggesting on Tuesday that they hinge on a concerted, sustained, serious plan that will not include room for LNG.
In a statement, the David Suzuki Foundation said the government will have to act very quickly on such priority items as regulating and applying the carbon tax to methane emissions from the oil-and-gas sector and enacting a zero-emission vehicle standard like Quebec’s to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.
Merran Smith, who was co-chair of a climate solutions committee commissioned by former B.C. Liberal premier Christy Clark, on Tuesday commended the NDP for its measures, but noted that if the government plans to add LNG to the B.C. economy, other industries and consumers will have to cut even more carbon.