VANCOUVER – Experts say they’re not sure British Columbia’s overdue climate change plan will go far enough in increasing carbon taxes and tightening environmental policies to reach the province’s long term goals to reduce emissions.
B.C.’s Liberal government is scheduled to announce its Climate Leadership Plan on Friday, but Green party Leader Andrew Weaver said a decision to scrap cap-and-trade in 2014 and focus on developing the liquefied natural gas industry makes him doubtful the plan will be effective in curbing the province’s rising emissions.
“It’s incompatible to be a climate leader and an LNG leader,” said Weaver, who represents Oak Bay-Gordon Head in the legislature.
A group of experts, First Nations, and business leaders were part of the government’s Climate Leadership Team that put forward 32 recommendations to the province last fall, including raising the $30-per-tonne carbon tax by $10 annually.
The government said it would have a climate plan announced by the spring of 2016 but delayed it until now.
The carbon tax has been in place since 2008 but includes some industry exemptions.
Weaver said he doesn’t expect the government to increase or expand the tax at the risk of deterring the LNG industry.
The Environment Ministry didn’t comment Thursday on the release of its plan. The government has defended its record in the past, saying it has been recognized as a world leader in the fight against climate change since 2008, when B.C. became the first province to implement a carbon tax.
The hefty carbon tax is the best tool in fighting climate change and to date, it has not had a negative effect on the province’s economy, said Merran Smith, director of Clean Energy Canada.
Smith, who was also a member of the climate team, said the government’s inaction to address climate change in recent years means the province will not meet its 2020 target to reduce emissions by 33 per cent below 2007 levels.
The federal government, along with other provinces, have set new goals following the Paris Agreement in December to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
B.C.’s next target remains set at 2050 — too far in the future to be an incentive to act now, Smith said.
“B.C. has had good climate policy in the past but we are falling behind and we have to take new steps if we want to stay on the forefront,” she said.
Among the team’s recommendations were new targets for 2030 and policies that would impose industry-specific targets.
The team said in its report that the recommendations needed to be adopted as a full package — not cherry-picked — to be effective.
While policy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions is important in addressing long-term concerns of extreme weather, droughts and forest fires, it also creates new opportunities to develop clean technology and energy, said Josha MacNab, B.C. regional director of the Pembina Institute.
“(Policies) needs to transition B.C. to a low-carbon economy, so that B.C.’s economy can be competitive and strong in an increasingly decarbonizing world,” she said.