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B.C. Liberals Masquerading As Harper Tories Destroy Legacy Of Climate Leadership

10/31/2014 06:44 EDT | Updated 12/31/2014 05:59 EST
John W Banagan via Getty Images

The week marked when the B.C. Liberals showed their true colours. On Monday, Oct. 20, the party took a page from the Harper Tories playbook and destroyed a legacy of climate leadership in British Columbia.

In what will become known as a defining moment in B.C. history, the B.C. Liberals introduced Bill 2 (Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act).

Bill 2 represents a shameful betrayal of future generations. It dismantles key elements of former premier Gordon Campbell's continent-leading climate policies. And it replaces these policies with a made-in-Alberta, Harper government approach that will instead allow for a dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions in B.C.

Back in 2008, I had the honour of working with Campbell, his environment minister Barry Penner and the climate action team to outline clear, bold and practical steps that we as a province could take to address global warming.

Together with the government, academics, industry leaders, and First Nations, we developed a suite of policies that has allowed us to reduce our carbon emissions while growing our economy. Six years later, British Columbia's climate policies were still seen as leading the way in North America. Sadly, this bill now threatens to entirely undermine that success.

Here's why.

Under the bill, the B.C. government will repeal legislation that would have enabled us to enter a cap and trade framework with other jurisdictions. In its place, we will adopt new legislation that would see us embrace what's called an "emissions intensity" scheme along the lines of what Alberta and the Harper Tories have done.

Whereas a cap and trade framework would force us to reduce the total amount of carbon we emit into the atmosphere, an emissions intensity scheme would only require businesses to reduce the concentration of carbon produced per tonne of liquefied natural gas. In other words, as we produce more LNG, we will emit more carbon -- and this bill would not place any limit on the maximum amount of carbon we emit. That means our overall net carbon emissions can increase significantly despite the "emissions intensity" decreasing.

Here's the point: Our climate doesn't care about emissions intensity. Our climate cares about the overall magnitude of emissions. And as far as global warming is concerned, the magnitude of net carbon emissions is the only thing that matters.

So why are we going down this path? Because the government knows that emissions are going to skyrocket if we develop our LNG industry. And an Alberta or Harper government style emissions intensity model will provide the illusion of action on global warming at the same time as our overall magnitude of carbon emissions continue to increase. That's all this is: The illusion of action.

The simple fact is, if we pass this bill, we may as well say goodbye to all of the progress we have made, for we will be stepping into a new era as one of the most polluting provinces in Canada.

But it is not too late. We can once again be a leader in climate policy in North America. We have the opportunity to come together with other West Coast jurisdictions and live up to our word and our commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By seizing this opportunity, we will be able to move forward together in a united approach to tackling our emissions.

By looking to other promising sectors in B.C., such as our clean tech sector which tripled in size from 2012 to 2013, we can continue to open up new and vast sectors of our economy with immense economic opportunities for British Columbian businesses.

But we cannot do this if we turn our backs on the progress that has already been made. We cannot do this if we pass this bill.

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