B.C. Government breaks promise on key climate deadline

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The Province of British Columbia has missed its own deadline to complete the CleanBC plan, another in a long string of broken promises on climate action. The government had promised to unveil additional climate actions to meet its 2030 target by December 5, 2020. Despite Premier Horgan’s repeated assurances that Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) projects will not proceed unless they can be shown to fit within B.C.’s climate plan, this missed deadline makes it clear the government is unable to show how these projects are compatible with climate action.

“Environmental groups welcomed the announcement of CleanBC two years ago, but cautioned that the plan only provided a strategy for 75 – 80 per cent of the 2030 target,” said Alan Andrews, the climate program director at Ecojustice.  “By failing to finalize CleanBC on time and as promised, this government has tripped at the first hurdle. For all its talk of climate leadership and emissions targets, B.C. isn’t going to address climate change without a comprehensive plan to do so.”

“B.C. has missed every climate target it has set for itself and now is refusing to come clean on the impact of LNG on meeting its 2030 – let alone 2040 and 2050 – targets. CleanBC and the Climate Change Accountability Act was supposed to put an end to this cycle of broken promises,” said Andrew Gage, staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law.

Two years in, the CleanBC plan still leaves B.C. more than 20 per cent short of its legally-binding 2030 target, a gap of at least 5.5 million tonnes of emissions. Much of that gap is made up of the 4 million tonnes of emissions associated with Phase One of the unbuilt LNG Canada export project. The organizations warned that the Province’s growing subsidies and support for the oil and gas sector – primarily fracking and LNG exports – will continue to derail B.C.’s climate targets if not addressed. The oil and gas sector alone will exceed B.C.’s entire 2050 emissions target by over 160 per cent if fracking and LNG are allowed to expand.

“CleanBC has many effective measures in it and could be a strong climate plan, but Premier Horgan’s commitment to fracking and LNG fatally undermines it,” said Andrew Radzik, energy campaigner for Georgia Strait Alliance. “The province can’t blame the pandemic for this; they know what climate actions they need to introduce and have had plenty of time to do so. It’s time to stop propping up the oil and gas industry and get serious about climate change.”

“The province gave almost a billion dollars in subsidies to the oil and gas sector in 2019 and 2020, twice what the government spent on their plan to fight climate change,” said Sven Biggs, Canadian oil and gas program director at Stand.earth. “Fossil fuel subsidies have grown by a whopping 79 per cent during Premier Horgan’s term in office. It is difficult to see how this government will ever achieve their climate targets if they continue to heavily subsidize the very projects that are driving the increase in our emissions.”

“Our provincial government has a clear choice to make: Stand for a future that is just, equitable, and safe or stand with oil and gas. You can’t do both; it’s incompatible with climate science, B.C.’s emissions targets, and the goal of strengthened relationships with Indigenous peoples. In fact, many oil and gas projects in B.C. lack full consent from affected Indigenous communities,” said Anjali Appadurai, Climate Justice Campaigner for Sierra Club BC.

The failure to finalize the plan is significant not only because it is another broken climate promise from a successive B.C. government, but because major emission reductions must happen this decade.  In 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we must drastically reduce global emissions by 2030 to keep global warming below 1.5 C and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. B.C. is already experiencing climate-induced wildfires, smoke-filled skies, heat waves, and sea level rise. These and other impacts will get worse as climate change progresses.