North Cowichan Climate Plan superior to federal plan
Congratulations to North Cowichan for adopting their new climate plan (NCCP), which is a cut above the federal plan (FCC). The FCC and climate plans of most other nationalities are fraught with deception and problems caused by their insistence on promoting “NET-zero emissions by 2050”. The FCC adopted the ‘net-zero’ term as a means to allow fossil fuel use well past 2050 and to reach their “NET-zero” emissions target. They wrongly claim that various sequestration techniques (planting more trees, and using technologies such as direct atmospheric capture of CO2 and carbon capture and storage at source) will help counter fossil fuel emissions. They largely ignore the current atmospheric concentration of CO2 (418 ppm), for even if emissions were reduced to near zero today, this would cause our climate to continue warming for many decades. The federal strategy cannot possibly work in the short term of two decades or less that we have to reduce emissions and solve the climate crisis.
What is wrong with “net-zero” as promoted by the federal plan? First, it can be and is interpreted in different ways, including even continuing emissions at current levels. Second, the sequestration technologies and tree planting they rely on would be important later to help sequester atmospheric CO2, but that process will take several centuries. Planting even millions of trees now, together with those technologies, cannot counter even one per cent of current emissions in the short term. Sequestration technologies face many more years of development, testing, and expensive construction and operating costs before becoming useful, years that we don’t have to solve the crisis.
So what is the answer for tackling the climate crisis? There are two technologies to reach a NEAR-zero emissions target (instead of NET-zero) by 2050. Both are already proven and underway, which North Cowichan recognizes and is following. First, conversion to electric vehicles can easily counter 20 per cent of emissions by 2030. Second, renewable energy (wind, solar, hydrogen, etc.) could counter another 40 per cent of emissions by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040, and 70 per cent by 2050. Renewables may require government subsidies to developers to ensure that they come on-stream in this decade, and to improve energy storage, but globally these already amount to 20 per cent of all energy. Biofuels are not part of the renewables mix because they are not carbon-neutral as some would claim.
While the ‘NET-zero’ term was inadvertently included in the NCCP plan, it is really a “NEAR-zero” plan, for it clearly intends replacing fossil fuel energy and emissions with renewable energy. Congratulations to North Cowichan for outclassing the federal government. We should press the latter to upgrade their deceptive FCC, and immediately transfer subsidies from fossil fuel interests to renewables, and help guarantee a healthy climate for our grandchildren.
Geoff Strong, atmospheric/climate scientist
member North Cowichan Environmental Advisory Committee