Tree planting, gas leaks next in climate plan

No increase for carbon tax, 2020 greenhouse gas reduction abandoned as forests, natural gas industry focus of efforts

The B.C. government has given up on its 2020 goal for greenhouse gas emissions and is looking to tree planting, agricultural efforts and cleaning up the natural gas industry to reach its longer-term goals.

Premier Christy Clark announced the province’s latest plan Friday, confirming that it would not proceed with its advisory committee’s key recommendation to resume increasing its carbon tax on fuels in 2018.

That committee concluded that even with aggressive increases in the tax, the 2020 goal to reduce emissions by a third from the 2007 baseline would not be met. Clark said the other measures the government is announcing will put it on track for the 2050 goal, to eliminate 80 per cent of the province’s greenhouse gas output.

Clark said B.C. can’t keep adding to its carbon tax until other provinces catch up, or the federal government mandates a national price on carbon.

The plan targets 45 per cent reduction by 2025 in gas industry infrastructure built before 2015, to stop natural gas from escaping. It provides few details, referring to incentives and a credit program to for new industry infrastructure to reduce “fugitive and vented emissions” of unburned gas, which has 20 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Sybil Seitzinger, executive director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, said the plan shows B.C. has “a long way to go” in meeting its goals.

The “heavy lifting” of cutting emissions by 12 million tonnes a year will fall to the forestry and agriculture sector, but there are few details on how that will be achieved, Seitzinger said.

Susan Yerkovich, president of B.C.’s Council of Forest Industries, praised the commitment to replant and rehabilitate up to 3,000 square km of forest affected by wildfire and mountain pine beetle infestation.

NDP environment critic George Heyman said B.C. has missed targets already and now has removed targets until 2050.

“Christy Clark went to the Paris climate change negotiations with a personal videographer, but as soon as the photo opportunity passed, so did her interest,” Heyman said.

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said the government’s commitment to liquefied natural gas development is contrary to its greenhouse gas plan, with emissions from LNG processing excluded from restrictions and no more increases to the carbon tax.

 

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