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B.C. launches clean growth plan

"CleanBC will position our province for success as the world transitions to low carbon solutions" - Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver. (via Contributed)

British Columbia can develop a liquefied natural gas industry while meeting ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets, Premier John Horgan suggested Wednesday, Dec. 5, with the release of his government’s new clean growth plan.

The plan, called CleanBC, is both a climate change strategy and new energy policy, and it will require 8 per cent more electricity by 2030.

The clean growth plan includes "ringfencing" of carbon taxes for industry. Benchmarks will be set for industries like mines, LNG, pulp mills and cement plants, and those that meet or beat emissions intensity benchmarks will get carbon taxes rebated.

Key policies of the plan include:

  • increasing low carbon fuel standard for gasoline and diesel to increase from 10 per cent to 20 per cent required renewable content;
  • requiring a 15 per cent renewable fuel content for natural gas used for heating and for industry;
  • 16,000 homes to be retrofiited by 2030 to improve energy efficiency incentives for homeowners to buy heat pumps; and
  • diversion of 95 per cent of organic waste from agriculture, industry and municipalities.

The plan so far accounts for 75 per cent of the required emissions reductions by 2030 with the remaining 25 per cent to be identified over the next two years.

And it appears to have the support of Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver.

"CleanBC will position our province for success as the world transitions to low carbon solutions," Weaver said in a government news release.

Weaver has expressed deep skepticism over the Horgan government’s support for an LNG industry and vowed he would bring the government down over the issue, unless he could be convinced that the LNG industry could fit into B.C. new climate action plan.

Horgan’s government appears to have prevailed with the argument that, although an LNG industry will increase B.C.’s own carbon footprint, it will result in lower emissions in Asia, if it displaces coal power.

Clean Energy Canada executive director Merran Smith expressed satisfaction with today's news.

"We've demonstrated here in B.C. that we can reduce carbon pollution while creating jobs," Merran said.

The plan has also been applauded by the Pembina Institute and the Sierra Club.

B.C.’s climate action plan aims for a 40 per cent reduction of greenhouse gases (GHGs) below 2007 levels by 2030. B.C. produced about 62 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MT/CO2e) in 2015. A 40 per cent reduction below 2007 levels (67 MT) would require taking 27 MT out of the economy by 2030.

But the first phase of the LNG Canada project would add 3.5 MT/CO2e, according to the B.C. government and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. The Pembina Institute claims it is much higher – about 9 MT CO2e – based on upstream methane emissions.

B.C.’s oil and gas sector accounts for 22 per cent of B.C.’s GHGs. Transportation accounts for 37 per cent, buildings 12 per cent.

The government’s plan calls for more electrification of the gas fields of northeastern B.C. That will require an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in new transmission lines.

For the built environment, the plan calls for retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient and phasing out natural gas for heating buildings.

Electrical heating is about three times more expensive than natural gas, when resistance heating is used, so the government’s plan calls for the use of heat pumps for heating and cooling. Heat pumps use much less electricity than resistance heating.

Some of the measures for transportation are already in place or were recently announced.

They include a low carbon fuel standards, which has been in place for years in B.C. and subsidies for electric vehicles.

The government also recently announced a zero emission vehicle mandate that will require 10 per cent of all new car sales to be low-emission vehicles (electric or hydrogen fuel cell) by 2025.

More to come.

— Nelson Bennett, Business in Vancouver