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Competing visions of climate action – let the contest begin

Tom Hackney - BCSEA Policy Director
Thursday, February 9, 2017

screen_shot_2017-02-08_at_9.35.19_pm.pngWith Clean Growth Climate Action, the BC New Democrats have just announced their intention to weigh in seriously on climate action and renewable energy transition in BC.

Given the timing, this looks like an early shot in the upcoming contest to form the next government. If so, that’s good news for energy and climate policy. Both are stalled at the stage where we recognize that we must do something but are not ready to make decisive commitments. A vigorous public discussion and a political mandate are probably needed to move forward.

Meanwhile (to no surprise), we expect the Green Party to make climate action and energy central themes of their platform when it is published in the next few weeks. The voters of BC may soon have a choice of three visions for BC to cut its carbon pollution and move to clean energy.

screen_shot_2017-02-08_at_9.41.10_pm.pngLast August, BCSEA panned the government’s Climate Leadership Plan (BC’s Climate Leadership Plan: cute graphics; no plan), saying it is not a proper plan because its proposed measures would take BC half of less of the distance to reach its legislated carbon emissions reductions.

Clean Growth Climate Action, is likewise not a proper plan, as it has little detail. But it makes several significant commitments of principle, including the assignment of carbon reduction targets to the sectors of industry, transportation and buildings.

screen_shot_2017-02-08_at_9.34.57_pm.pngAlthough the lack of detail makes comparison difficult, the NDP proposal commits to about 17 megatonnes of carbon cuts from these industry, transportation and buildings by 2030, which is not outrageously far from the trajectory BC should follow to meet its 2050 reduction targets. By contrast, the Climate Leadership Plan proposes much smaller reductions in those sectors, relies instead on questionable reductions from the forest sector, and acknowledges no intermediate reductions target.

Both parties promise to create jobs and stimulate the economy while taking climate action. However, the Climate Leadership Plan characterizes highway infrastructure construction like the Massey Tunnel replacement project as climate action, on the grounds that it would “reduce congestion.” This is false. Highway expansion induces more traffic and emissions and supports urban sprawl, which is a big driver of demand for fossil fuels.

The NDP proposal claims it would do better by investing in “job-creating infrastructure and projects that actually reduce carbon pollution, like new transit and transportation, renewable and clean technology, and energy efficiency upgrades”; however details are lacking.

The NDP proposals emphasize affordability and the protection of families. Corporate tax breaks would be reduced and carbon tax revenues would rebated to 80% of BC households, up from the current 40%.

The BCSEA looks forward to a healthy debate on these issues in the coming months, and especially during the election campaign in April and May. Watch out for BCSEA’s analyses of the parties’ platforms and candidates debates in a riding near you.


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