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BC says its climate plan is world-leading. So why are emissions going in the wrong direction?

Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This story is part of the CBC News initiative, entitled Our Changing Planet, to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it.

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases the third and final section of its climate science review, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the report reveals “flies of broken climate promises” by governments, accusing them of fueling global warming from fails to reduce emissions.

And while British Columbia has touted its own climate plan as one of the best in the world, climate experts and environmentalists say the province’s emissions continue to rise – in part because of continued investment in fossil fuels.

The climate plan of BC CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 launched last October – aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 2007 levels by 2030, in part by raising carbon prices, accelerating targets for zero-emission vehicles and requiring industry to came up with plans to achieve its legal emissions targets.

“Many climate experts say this is North America’s flagship climate plan. I will do my best to ensure that we remain world leaders, Canada leading, “said George Hayman, British Columbia’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, to CBC News on Monday following the publication of the IPCC report.

However, the province’s emissions have been increasing every year since 2015, for which data are available, and remain higher than in 2007.

Experts say the lack of a detailed plan on how BC will reduce its oil and gas emissions – and ongoing subsidies and investments in liquefied natural gas projects in the northern part of the province – undermines progress elsewhere and risks excluding the province in the field of climate. reached.

BC residents experienced some of these predicted catastrophic weather events much earlier than expected, from catastrophic forest fires and floods to last summer’s deadly heat dome. (Jonathan Hayward / Canadian Press)

George Hoberg, a professor at UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, said the plan could be broader than in some other provinces, but failed to provide detailed accountability on how the most polluting industries could realistically reduce its emissions so fast.

“This is a fair statement about the content of the policies and the aspirations of those policies, but not about the direction of our emissions or the nature of the policies themselves,” Hoberg said of Hayman’s statement as a “world leader.”

“For example, we have promised to reduce oil and gas emissions in the province, but we still do not have a plan for that.”

Hoberg said the increase in BC emissions is partly a reflection of a growing population. And the province has performed better in some areas of its plan, using hydropower to make the grid virtually carbon-free, and exceeding its targets to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road.

“These things are quite admirable – but this beast of natural gas is lurking outside and needs to be addressed, especially after 2030, so that BC can make a good commitment to global climate action,” he said.

Once completed, Canada’s $ 40 billion liquefied natural gas project will see a pipeline carrying natural gas from Dawson Creek in northeastern British Columbia to a new onshore processing plant in Kitimat.

Heyman said Phase 1 emissions from the LNG Canada plant are reported in the models set out in the CleanBC plan. The province said details of a program to reduce emissions from industries, including oil and gas, would be published in 2023.

“We have made it clear in our roadmap to 2030 that we are committed to a 33 to 38 percent reduction in upstream and downstream emissions in the oil and gas sector. This is part of our roadmap and we will be judged on it, “the minister said.

But Sierra Club BC, which is suing the province for failing to provide a detailed plan to meet emissions targets, said full emissions allowed only by Canada’s LNG terminal in Kitimat would make it almost impossible to meet the province’s targets.

“We had a few good years to reduce emissions 10 years ago, but then the effort has diminished,” said Jens Witting, an environmental activist.

“The NDP has restarted the carbon tax process, but both the previous Liberal government and the NDP government have supported more fracking and the construction of more liquefied natural gas terminals, and this is a key part of the problem.

The NDP’s CleanBC plan is the latest iteration of a climate change strategy submitted by successive governments to BC Liberal and the NDP since 2007 – neither of which has met its emissions targets.

In 2007, Liberal government of that time statutory targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by one third by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. The province did not come close to achieving the first of these targets and when it became clear that BC would not achieve its target for In 2020, the NDP government removed it from provincial climate change legislation.

The authors of the IPCC report warn that global emissions must be reduced by 45% this decade to avoid warming from 2.4 C to 3.5 C by the end of the century – a level that would cause severe climate impacts for much of the world’s population.

Many BC residents have already experienced some of the predicted catastrophic weather events much earlier than expected – from catastrophic forest fires and floods to the deadly dome from last summer’s heat.

“This gives us a very daunting challenge,” Hoberg said. “Given science, very few governments do enough compared to where we need to be.”