Dear Prospective Member of the BC Legislature,
Please, let’s not beat about the bush.
We know healthcare and education are important, and so are debt-repayment and many other things. But we’re all together on this one small planet, sharing our berths on the Good Ship Civilization, and as a direct result of the fuel we’ve been burning and other careless activities a god-almighty storm is bearing down on us, with the ability to toss our puny boat up in the air and down into the depths, wrecking everything we love and care about, from our children and grandchildren to our forests and food, our furry friends and our future.
We’re talking about climate change.
If, during the election campaign, you neglect to talk about this looming emergency, and the measures that you and your party will take to tackle it, you will disappoint many, many voters, who consider this the most important issue facing the world today. Please don’t try to avoid the topic by suggesting that ‘the science is not certain’, or ‘the economy must come first’. You know that neither of these is true.
But if you use your prominence during the campaign to remind people that this crisis is extremely real, extremely urgent, and absolutely must be addressed, then many voters all over your riding will thank you and hope that you win your seat in the Legislature, giving you the ability to act. British Columbians understand about climate change, and it alarms them. No fewer than 1,700 people took the time to write to the government this summer to urge continued support for the carbon tax.
To help in your election campaign, we offer what we believe to be the ten most important actions that the new government should take to tackle the climate crisis.
1. SHOW LEADERSHIP
Show leadership, right from the top. We need a Premier who will talk about the climate crisis in the clearest possible terms, and motivate people with the vision of BC as a pioneer in building a clean, sustainable, zero-carbon world. Also:
a) Bring back the Climate Action Team, inviting the province’s most-informed climate solutions leaders to form a permanent advisory team.
b) Continue BC’s legal requirement that all ministries and agencies, schools, colleges, universities, health authorities and Crown corporations are carbon neutral, reporting annually on their actions towards carbon neutrality. Change the offsets game if you want by having them pay into a BC Climate Solutions Fund for distribution to BC climate solutions initiatives, regardless of the formal offsets market, as the City of Duncan has done, using the Community Carbon Marketplace.
c) Require that a carbon budget be introduced in the Legislature every four years to describe how much CO2 and other GHGs will be emitted, and which government ministries and programs will take the lead on achieving the necessary cuts, as recommended by Andrew Gage in the UVic Environmental Law Centre’s Maintaining Natural BC for Our Children: Selected Law Reform Proposals.
2. BC’s ENERGY INDUSTRY
Fossil fuels are the largest single cause of global warming. Natural gas does not get a free pass because it uses words like ‘natural’ and ‘clean’. Arsenic is ‘natural’, too. Natural gas produces methane emissions from unburned gas wherever it goes, and over 20 years, molecule for molecule, methane is trapping 105 times more heat than CO2. The development of the proposed LNG industry and meeting BC’s climate goals are 100% incompatible.
a) Backpedal furiously on any commitment to increase natural gas production and develop liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Stop the development of natural gas infrastructure (roads, etc).
b) Put BC’s coal industry on notice that all future coal exports will be subject to the carbon tax, to be reduced appropriately if an importing nation already imposes a carbon tax.
c) End all fossil fuel industry subsidies, and set aside 50% of royalty incomes from fossil fuel extraction to help coal and gas-dependent communities to diversity and plan for a future green economy.
d) Introduce new regulations to control the fracking industry, as recommended by Ben Parfitt in the UVic Environmental Law Centre’s new book, mentioned above.
e) Restore the BC Utilities Commission’s authority to review and make evidence-based decisions on all BC Hydro major projects, contracts and long-term plans, to better serve energy conservation and the rational management of electricity in BC, as recommended by Bill Andrews in the same UVic Environmental Law Centre book.
3. THE CARBON TAX
Reinforce the carbon tax. The public supports it, and the evidence shows that it’s working as planned, and reducing our emissions.
a) Continue to increase the tax each by $5 a tonne per year, ideally increasing it by $10 a year.
b) Close the carbon loophole, which enables companies to avoid paying the tax on the release of greenhouse gases from industrial processes such as cement manufacture, aluminum manufacture, and flaring during natural gas production. If this loophole had been closed, it would have generated $158 million in 2012/13.
c) By closing the loophole, increasing the carbon tax by $5 a tonne, and using the new income to fund climate solutions, the province could put between $800 million and $1 billion a year into a Better Future Fund, spending half to fund public transit ($375 million), home energy efficiency ($25 million) and a $50 million a year innovation and clean technology fund as proposed by Better Future BC, the rest being available for other purposes.
4. SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION
Launch a Great Zero Carbon Transportation Challenge. Invite every community to form a team to show how it could reduce its carbon emissions from transportation to zero by 2030, with a framework, website and webinars for collaboration, and to share the best ideas. In the interim:
a) Fund a comprehensive cycling strategy at $75 million a year, as recommended by the BC Cycling Coalition. Restore the PST exemption that used to exist on electric bicycles.
b) Continue to fund the expansion and growth of transit and LRT, putting it ahead of road-building.
c) Continue to fund the LiveSmart BC incentives for electric vehicles and charging stations, and to support the California tailpipe standards for new vehicles.
5. SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS
Launch a Great Zero Carbon Buildings Challenge. Invite every community to form a similar team for buildings. Also:
(a) Restore funding for the LiveSmart BC incentives for residential and commercial building energy retrofits to the level they were before the recent cuts.
6. NEW ECONOMY
Given the growing vulnerability of the global economy, establish a New Economy Transition Team. Charge its members to research the world’s best practices, and prepare plans for a transition to a new BC economy based on regional resilience, sustainability, justice and prosperity without being so vulnerable to global financial fragility, or dependent on income and jobs from fossil fuels. Also:
a) Adopt the Green Jobs Plan developed by GreenJobsBC, making investments that would create tens of thousands of new jobs in building retrofits, clean energy, transportation, and value-added forestry.
7. PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT
Make a concerted effort to win the hearts, minds and practical engagement of BC’s citizens:
a) Issue a Great Green Neighbourhood Challenge, with a $25,000 grant for every neighbourhood that wins sufficient points for a variety of household and community actions, providing a framework and website to encourage collaboration and share the best ideas.
b) Issue three Great Green Educational Challenges, with awards for primary schools, high schools and colleges that win sufficient points, using a similar collaborative framework.
c) Issue a Great Green Business Challenge, with awards for every business that wins sufficient points for a variety of actions, using a similar collaborative framework.
d) Issue a Great Green Organization Challenge, with awards for every non-profit organization or institution that wins sufficient points for a variety of actions, using a similar collaborative framework
8. SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
Re-energize the BC Climate Action Charter, which 180 of BC’s 188 communities have signed, and give gold, silver and bronze awards to municipalities and regional districts that win sufficient points for a variety of climate action results, using a similar collaborative framework.
9. SUSTAINABLE FORESTS, FARMS and OCEANS
BC’s forests, farmlands and ranchlands, if managed ecologically, possess the important ability to absorb carbon, sucking some of the excess out of the atmosphere. Reform BC’s 2007 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act to include the requirement that land management in BC should prioritize carbon storage over simple income maximization. To maximize ocean sea-grass carbon uptake, establish a Marine Carbon Taskforce to recommend the best way forward.
10. GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT
To share learning and best practices, and to mobilize other cities and regions around the world, develop plans with the City of Vancouver to make Vancouver a centre of global climate excellence. Host conferences for the world’s greenest cities, colleges, and businesses, and call on the world’s top climate solutions experts to gather in Vancouver to discuss ways to achieve a breakthrough in the UN climate treaty negotiations.
BC Sustainable Energy Association