Until last week, the government of British Columbia inscrutably insisted it could meet its carbon emission reduction targets AND fast track the development of a new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export industry. But the numbers were not on its side. Producing and compressing the 1.9 trillion cubic feet of shale gas the province said it would need to reach its goal of having three LNG facilities operating by 2020 would add 21 million tonnes (MT) of CO2 emissions in BC. It would add a further 97 MT offshore. To put those numbers in context, the Province of BC currently estimates its domestic emissions are 60 MT. In order to meet its 2020 target of reducing those emissions to 43 MT in spite of the new emissions the proposed LNG industry would add, emissions from the rest of the provincial economy would have to contract by a whopping 63%! Absolutely no one believes that is going to happen.
Lately, the province has even begun to talk about, not three, but five LNG facilities. What would that pace of development mean for BC‘s carbon emission reduction targets?
An anonymous spokesperson for the Province was quoted last week musing that “…targets are just targets.” “If they aren’t met, government will simply try harder to meet them next time.” Indeed, targets are just targets. But targets without commitment, without practical, achievable and sufficient plans are targets we fail to achieve. Targets without these underpinnings are called wishes.
The cavalier attitude expressed by the government spokesperson at the prospect that BC will fail to meet its emission reduction targets betrays the commitment of the previous government to limit further damage to BC’s economy from climate-change. It’s also a slap in the face for BC’s cities, which have achieved worldwide recognition for their ground-breaking efforts to combat climate change.
Can the BC government ‘kick the can down the road’ and try harder sometime later? The answer is ‘no’. As the International Energy Agency has observed, building fossil fuel infrastructure locks in future CO2 emissions. Those locked-in emissions will not be overcome by trying harder. BC’s elevated carbon emissions will be part of the global failure to avert the dire consequences of dangerous climate change: biodiversity loss, ecological disruption, agricultural damage, social dislocation and economic contraction.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said recently that “limiting climate change requires substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” This should not be news to anyone. This latest statement simply confirms what we know: Humanity must shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy in order to adapt to a carbon-constrained world we have created. Yet, we constantly hear apologists rationalize that emissions from their particular project/province/country are tiny in the grand scheme of things – nothing to be concerned about. The truth is that the only way to address global climate change is to reduce emissions from the thousands of such sources that are cumulatively responsible for the elevation of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.
BC, with its ground-breaking revenue-neutral carbon tax and emission reduction targets, is already on the path toward a fully renewable energy-based economy. The province will enjoy a strategic economic advantage over jurisdictions that are not yet preparing for the low carbon future. Unless it back-tracks.
The job of government in this second decade of the 21st century is to promote a healthy economy and society within a healthy environment. Every jurisdiction, including BC, has a responsibility to contribute to the cumulative solution to the climate threat. And no quibbling or rationalizing can change this fact. So, let’s hear no more talk of how ‘targets are just targets.’ The onus is on the BC government to show us exactly how it will meet its legislated emission reduction targets. Let’s hear a credible plan.