Carbon pollution from key sources in British Columbia will increase until 2030 and remain above current levels until at least 2050, confounding the province's efforts to be a leader in combatting climate change, a new study warns.
The study for the Pembina Institute and two other agencies released on Monday comes as premiers are gathering this week with the Prime Minister to discuss a pan-Canadian climate strategy.
The analysis of British Columbia's recently released Climate Leadership Plan says carbon pollution from natural gas, industry and utilities, transport and buildings will hit 66 megatonnes in 2050, far more than the province's legislated target of 12.6 megatonnes.
The assessment, conducted by energy and environment consultants at Navius Research, said growing carbon pollution from the liquefied natural gas sector – assuming it comes online – and upstream shale-gas operations will constitute the largest contributor to the size of the gap with carbon pollution from LNG and natural gas doubling by 2025.
"The province is increasingly trumpeting its climate leadership but we're not on track, and we're going in the wrong direction from a climate and carbon pollution perspective," Matt Horne, the B.C. associate director of the Pembina Institute, said in an interview.
"B.C. has to up its game. If the country is going to be successful, B.C. needs to do more to reduce carbon emissions."
The B.C. government acknowledged challenges ahead.
"We have always said our Climate Leadership Plan is not going to get us all the way to our 2050 target," the Environment Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry added that emissions will be reduced further than planned as new policies are announced.
As it stands, the ministry said, British Columbia's greenhouse gas emissions are among the lowest in Canada.
Navius Research conducted the study for the Pembina Institute as well as the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and Clean Energy Canada. In the report's conclusion, the authors acknowledge the emissions forecast could be lower if they have overestimated the rate of growth of LNG and natural-gas production. "Although there is uncertainty in our assumptions, it is likely that B.C.'s [greenhouse gas] emissions will be above its legislated targets based on the climate policies modelled," they state.
For almost a decade, British Columbia has been seen by some as a climate leader for such measures as North America's first carbon tax as well as hard caps on industrial emissions. However, Premier Christy Clark's government has conceded it will miss its touted target for reducing emissions by 33 per cent below 2007 levels by the end of 2020.
The province has ruled out increasing its $30-a-tonne tax on carbon, which adds about seven cents a litre to the cost of gasoline, until other provinces match it – a decision that rejects a call by the province's government-appointed Climate Leadership Team to raise the tax by $10 annually.
British Columbia's stand comes in contrast to Alberta's climate-action plan, announced a year ago, which includes an economywide carbon tax, starting in 2017, that will cap emissions from the oil sands and phasing out coal-fired power by 2030. The plan is expected to reduce carbon emissions below current levels within 15 years.
Mr. Horne noted that the new research is focused on the situation in British Columbia, one of four provinces, along with Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, that have implemented or announced a carbon tax. Mr. Horne said British Columbia should not wait for a national consensus before coming up with its own plan.
"To me, there's an opportunity for provinces that want to lead to shape that national conversation and British Columbia should be doing more on that front," he said.
While he said he was expecting some clarity on how provinces will hold the line on climate change after the talks in Ottawa, Mr. Horne said he was skeptical about substantive B.C. action before the next provincial election in May, 2017.