The B.C. government is expected to unveil legislation today formally outlining its ambitious climate-change agenda, setting into law the targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in the years 2020 and 2050.
Meanwhile, one of the first concrete measures in Premier Gordon Campbell's war on global warming was unveiled yesterday, a plan to shrink the government's own carbon footprint.
Under that plan, B.C. Hydro will hire 20 energy police to help the provincial government cut power use in all government buildings, from schools and hospitals to the smallest service posts.
Mr. Campbell posed for a photo opportunity last night to launch the energy conservation program, switching on new lights that outline the exterior of the legislature buildings in Victoria.
The lights are one of the signature sights in the capital city, and the government recently changed the 3,300 light bulbs, which cost B.C. Hydro $5 each, with cutting-edge cold cathode fluorescent technology. The new bulbs are longer-lasting and more energy-efficient than the old ones, but not publicly available.
The $200-million Power Smart initiative is part of the provincial government's commitment to make B.C.'s public sector carbon-neutral by 2010, and will include retrofitting the government's 6,500 buildings with items such as low-wattage light bulbs and more efficient heating and cooling systems.
While the energy program offers some concrete steps, it amounts to a small portion of the government's overall targets to cut emissions in B.C.
The energy program is expected to eventually save 342 gigawatt hours of electricity annually, which amounts to 756,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases by 2020. The province will need to cut more than 40 million tonnes of emissions to meet its 2020 targets.
The proposed legislation to be tabled today is expected to set out long-term targets, including the promised goal of cutting one-third of the province's overall emissions by 2020. The targets for 2050 have not yet been set out.
What won't be included, however, are details of how the province will achieve those targets.
That will be left to the Climate Action Team, a blue-ribbon panel of experts who will be named today. The team will have until next summer to set the specific reduction targets, then government will draft regulations to take effect by the end of 2008.
A government official could not provide an estimate of the B.C. government's current share of overall greenhouse-gas emissions in the province, saying they are still revising the estimates.
An independent company has been hired to validate the government's climate-change figures, and some of those numbers may be available by the end of the year.
But Bev Van Ruyven, B.C. Hydro's conservation chief, said the energy conservation targets are "very doable."
She said the 20 new "energy managers" will help government agencies look for savings. They'll also be responsible for encouraging public-sector employees to unplug devices, shut off lights and become "ambassadors" for conservation.
"There are some simple things that can get us at least halfway there," she said, such as replacing old boilers in schools and upgrading appliances in social housing.
The agreement between B.C. Hydro and the province aims to reduce electricity consumption in existing provincial buildings by 5 per cent from the 2006 baseline by 2011, 14 per cent by 2016 and 20 per cent by 2020.
The government expects that investments of $200-million in new technology and retrofits over the next 12 years will result in savings of $250-million over the lifetime of those investments.