News / Vancouver

B.C. failing to meet greenhouse emission targets: Federal government

British Columbia is on track to increase greenhouse gas emissions – not reduce them – according to a letter from Canada’s environment minister.

Leona Aglukkaq wrote to her provincial counterpart, Mary Polak, on April 10 with Environment Canada’s latest greenhouse gas projections as B.C. struggles to meet its 2020 goal of reducing emissions to 33 per cent below 2007 levels.

Instead of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), the 2014 Emissions Trend Report says B.C. is actually on pace to increase emissions 11 per cent by 2020 (from 2005 levels).

“If Stephen Harper’s government is scolding you on not doing enough on climate change, you’ve got a problem,” said NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert, who obtained the letter through Freedom of Information and shared it with Metro. “There is no leadership on climate change with (Premier) Christy Clark. We’ve only seen emissions go up.”

The letter was sent as Canada tries to uphold its own international obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change.

Aglukkaq writes, “any additional information or clarification that you can provide on how your jurisdiction intends to meet your self-developed 2020 target will be helpful.

“We have not yet received information for the post-2020 period at a level of detail that would satisfy the expectation of the Lima Call for Climate Action,” the letter to Polak continues. “I hope you will be in a position to share such information soon.”

British Columbia touts itself as climate change leader on the world stage.

A week after Aglukkaq’s letter was sent, Clark was at an international G20 conference in Washington, D.C., giving a World Bank-sponsored presentation on the province’s Carbon Tax, introduced in 2008 by former Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell.

Last week, following the election of NDP Premier-elect Rachel Notley in Alberta, Clark told reporters she looked forward to addressing climate change with the new regime.

“We’ve got a lot, I think, to teach Alberta and hopefully teach the world,” Clark said.

That was true at one point but not anymore, according to David Suzuki Foundation science and policy manager Ian Bruce.

“Clearly, taking strong leadership has been good for B.C. It’s been recognized around the world,” said Bruce. “But much of that leadership was for legislation passed almost a decade ago.”

Even that world-renowned Carbon Tax has been on a five-year freeze since Clark took office.

Natural gas production and transportation have been driving emissions upwards in B.C., said Bruce.

But he still believes the province can meet its 2020 emission goals with increased spending on public transit and tougher legislation.

Some kind of co-ordinated national climate action plan would be helpful too, Bruce said, emphasizing Ottawa’s role.

“It’s ambitious but there are lot of tools and options,” he said. “We need to see the premier make this a priority. There needs to be a re-injection of leadership.”

Polak was not available when reached for comment Sunday.

In an emailed statement to Metro, the Ministry of Environment says the province met its 2012 interim GHG reduction target of six per cent and claims the federal data “does not incorporate all of B.C.’s GHG reduction actions,” such as carbon offsets in the forest sector.

Yet there was an acknowledgement efforts need to be ramped up.

“We have been clear from the outset that more actions would be needed to meet our emissions reduction targets for 2020 and 2050,” the statement reads. “To ensure B.C. remains a global leader, we recently announced our commitment to help move B.C.’s climate agenda forward through the development of a Climate Action Plan 2.0.”

Chandra Herbert said time is running out if the province still hopes to keep its promise.

“The public wants us to act on climate change, but they need to see a plan,” he said.

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