Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Race to go green
B.C. has promised to get its carbon action plan back on track but with a series of missed targets for the new plan, Ontario and Alberta have forged ahead, Justine Hunter in Victoria and Justin Giovannetti in Edmonton report
In the spring of 2015, B.C. Premier Christy Clark challenged jurisdictions around the world to meet or beat her province's world-leading climate action plan. Now her government is wrestling with rising CO2 levels while Alberta and Ontario have moved aggressively to reduce their provincial greenhouse gas emissions.
Richard Perry/The New York Times
Despite being elected on a platform that contained only a single passing mention of climate change, Premier Rachel Notley's New Democrats decided to make tough new carbon rules a priority in their first year in power.
It took only four months to come up with a plan that Ms. Notley now says is Canada's most progressive set of climate rules. Introduced last November, Alberta will have an economy-wide carbon tax starting in 2017. There will also be a cap on emissions from the oil sands that is expected to bring about a sweeping re-engineering of the provincial economy.
The province's coal-fired power plants, which now provide nearly half of Alberta's electricity, will all be phased out by 2030, and methane emissions will be halved by 2025. One-third of provincial electricity needs to come from wind and solar by 2030, and natural gas is expected to cover the rest.
The new carbon tax, starting at $20 a tonne before increasing to $30 in 2018, is expected to raise $3-billion annually. The new revenue won't be put to lowering personal income taxes; instead, the government has set aside most of the $9.6-billion it expects to collect over five years to pay for new green initiatives.
Those investments are expected to help large-scale emitters grapple with the new reality on Alberta's oil patch. After years of rapid growth in emissions, the oil sands will be capped at 100 megatonnes. Companies there currently emit 70 megatonnes annually.
Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail
After a year or more of work behind the scenes, Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne's cabinet was presented with a 57-page Climate Change Action Plan this week that will see the province spend more than $7-billion over the next four years in a bid to reduce emissions to 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050.
The plan calls for Ontario to begin phasing out natural gas for heating, provide incentives to retrofit buildings and give rebates to drivers who buy electric vehicles. It will also mandate that gasoline sold in the province contain less carbon, bring in building code rules requiring all new homes by 2030 to be heated with electricity or geothermal systems and set a target for 12 per cent of all new vehicle sales to be electric by 2025.
"It's a transformation that will forever change how we live, work, play and move," Ms. Wynne says in the preamble of the cabinet document obtained by The Globe and Mail.
The actions expected to bring the largest reductions in emissions by 2020 are moving buildings and the electricity system off natural gas – and to that end, Ontario would provide $3.8-billion for new grants, rebates and other subsidies to retrofit buildings, and move them onto geothermal, solar power or other forms of electric heat.
Another significant reduction is to come from programs to make industry more energy efficient, and Ontario expects to spend $1.2-billion to help factories and other industrial businesses cut emissions, such as by buying more energy-efficient machines.
The strategy is scheduled to be further reviewed by cabinet ministers and fine-tuned, sources said, with public release slated for June.
DARRYL DYCK/FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL
It was clear early in 2013 that British Columbia's vaunted climate-action agenda was heading off the rails. An internal Environment Ministry report warned that Premier Christy Clark's ambition to create a liquefied natural gas industry could double the province's entire output of greenhouse gas emissions – at a time when it was already struggling to meet its legislated targets to dramatically reduce GHGs.
The province's 2008 climate law set a legislated target of reducing emissions by 33 per cent below 2007 levels by the end of 2020, with increasingly ambitious targets in 2030 and 2050. A key part of the plan was the introduction of North America's first carbon tax.
In May, 2015, Ms. Clark promised to launch Climate Action 2.0 to get the plan back on track by 2030 – only with LNG in the picture. She appointed a climate action leadership team with an urgent deadline to produce a report that would be the basis for a draft framework by the province before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris last November. After a short public consultation period, the final plan was to be released in the spring legislative session of 2016.
The leadership team's report last fall found that emissions are rising, not falling, and the province will not meet its 2020 targets. To bend the curve down again by 2030, the team recommended a series of changes, including an increase in British Columbia's carbon tax by $10 a tonne each year starting in 2018.
With the government in Ottawa committed to a new national climate plan, British Columbia abandoned its initial timelines. The province launched an online consultation process, and instead of a draft plan, it then announced a second round of consultation. Both rounds of public consultation took the form of a passive online survey that was completed by 7,600 people.
Ms. Clark's Liberal government now says it will announce the new climate plan in June. "It is complicated by some of the considerations of what the feds are working on, but we're trying to work around that," B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said on Monday. "We've had a plan a long time before these guys got started. We're updating it."