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Deliberate optimism: A sustainable energy outlook for BC in 2017

Tom Hackney
Wednesday, January 11, 2017

At first glance, the 2017 sustainable energy outlook for BC is grim.

kmprotest.jpgLast November, the federal government approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, now followed by a compliant BC government. First Nations and environmental groups are vowing to do what it takes to stop the pipeline from being built.

The BC government’s liquefied natural gas export agenda has scored one committed project: Woodfibre LNG in Squamish. Other projects remain in play. If successful, BC’s LNG export policy would negate its other efforts to reduce carbon pollution.

Meanwhile, the Climate Leadership Plan that was supposed to update BC’s 2008 Climate Action Plan has far too few carbon reduction measures for BC to meet its own legislated reduction targets or do its share to limit climate change.

Looking south of the border, many people are dismayed at a new president who apparently “doesn’t do reality” on climate change and generates policy out of his own soundbites and class allegiances.

On the other hand…

Despite its bad decision on Kinder Morgan, we finally have a federal government that is investing political capital in climate action, including a vision of a clean energy economy and – yes – carbon pricing.

premiers_meeting.jpgAt last December’s pan-Canadian framework on climate, Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall argued that Canada could not afford to implement carbon pricing for fear of losing its competitiveness. Prime Minister Trudeau replied with a vision of Canada as a clean tech solution provider, necessarily doing its share on climate action:

“We can develop these solutions. We can deliver them to markets, but if and only if we create the right environment at home for these businesses to thrive, and this has to be through the right price signals and investments. If we don’t do this, we will miss out on this market opportunity and put our competitiveness at risk.”

On the need to hold back because of Donald Trump, Trudeau said:

“Canadian climate policy will be set by Canadians, not by whoever happens to be President of the United States.”

At the municipal level, cities and towns all over the world have been cooperating to address climate change. “100% Renewable Energy by 2050” is an increasingly popular way to talk about eliminating carbon pollution. In 2015, Vancouver committed to this target. Last summer, Victoria did likewise, saying:

"A target of 100% renewable energy [by 2050] is a corresponding objective [to both the COP 21 recommendations and BC’s legislated carbon reduction target] and considered one of the key pathways to achieve 80% GHG reductions by 2050.”

The BC government, which relies on its image as a climate leader, could get caught as a laggard by progressive governments at both the national and municipal levels.

Opinion polls show a close contest between the Liberals and the NDP opposition, as we approach the May 9th provincial general election. The Green vote exceeds 20% in some areas. Bill Tielman summarizes the situation thus: “Clark plagued by low approval, NDP policies unknown, and Kinder Morgan a risk for both parties.”

LNG-for-jobs has lost much of the magnetism that helped Christy Clark win in 2013. British Columbians seem ready for a new vision. BCSEA believes that vision should be a 100% Renewable Energy BC.

Our goal for the election is to have many motivated, energy-aware citizens who can demand that their prospective leaders address energy and climate issues seriously to be considered for office. Leading up to the election, BCSEA and its chapters will be working to stage all-candidates debates where we can have the greatest effect. We will also send out sustainable energy questionnaires to parties and candidates and/or publish our energy-savvy analysis of the platforms. So stay tuned, keep hoping and plan to vote.