THE BLOG
02/11/2014 05:38 EST | Updated 04/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Let's Get Down To The Business Of B.C. Energy

It's time to get politics out of environmental policy and serious environmental policy into politics. After all, the environment really doesn't care which political party you belong to.

Following energy policy development in B.C. over the past few years has closely resembled a roller coaster ride. As we head into a new legislature session, now is a good time to review the facts and open the discussion. The BC Liberals are going full on with a liquefied natural gas export plan. Tar sands producers are desperate for market, seeking any route to export diluted bitumen from landlocked Alberta, preferably through B.C. waters. Meanwhile, thermal coal exports are ramping up through Delta Port, Prince Rupert and Texada Island.

The time has come to have serious discussions about the difficult choices that lie ahead. Rather than wait for the federal government to rule on the Northern Gateway, and later, Kinder Morgan pipeline proposals, the time has come for us to take control over our own destiny. We have the potential to be a clean tech powerhouse, with both an economic and a skills training plan that could position British Columbia as a leader in the new global clean tech economy. The USA, China, and EU are all heading into renewable energy and knowledge based economies. Instead, B.C.'s future is looking more and more like becoming the super highway for non-renewable exports, with imported, short-term workers. Is this the direction we really want to go? It is not what I heard from the voters and it is definitely not a direction that I support. Especially when the opportunities for innovation and growth in the generation, transportation, storage and end use of renewable energy are profound.

So what does success really look like? As an MLA, it's my job to help move that conversation forward. I ran on a platform calling for B.C. to become a leader in developing the clean energy economy. With that comes the recognition that we need to position ourselves for a low carbon future. We are not using the wealth of today to position ourselves for tomorrow -- as Norway is doing. We need a specific and actionable plan to transition us from our current state to the one we desire in the future. We are long overdue for a conversation about economic diversification -- important, as our economy is based on a resource of limited value in an ever increasingly carbon constrained world. Canada is highly exposed to carbon risk. While we might not (nationally) put a price on carbon, other nations do. When enough political pressure builds to finally price it in Canada, our resource will become seriously devalued. Where are we then? Who's planning for this scenario?

We must find solutions to transition our society away from fossil fuels in general, and thermal coal, the single worst contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, in particular. However we must also recognize that this transition will not happen overnight.

The British Columbia Green Party is a party of solutions -- principled, pragmatic, and focused on building a prosperous Green British Columbia. To do this, we must be prepared to think outside the box and give any proposal a fair hearing, assessing it on its merits and then deciding what is in the best interest of the province. But it is British Columbians alone who can make these decisions. I believe that our democracy should be healthy enough for us to discuss the options we have and difficulties we face, without rushing to judgment. Our province has great potential, but it is only when we can talk together, that we can move toward the future we deserve.

The BC Greens want to move us forward toward a sustainable world, and that begins by having an honest discussion that recognizes the fact that we are not yet there. That is why we are hoping to reinvigorate the energy debate in B.C. We need to discuss uncomfortable issues in an open and honest way.

When it comes to securing a viable economic future, one that protects the natural environment that we are blessed with in B.C., I would expect to find bipartisan support. As we begin this new sitting of the legislature, I am looking for MLAs who are serious about building an economic future based on our access to clean renewable energy, the innovation potential of British Columbians, and our desire to ensure fiscal, environmental and social sustainability for future generations.

To those politicians who claim to be so concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, where are your voices in opposition to the proposed expansion of thermal coal exports? To those politicians who claim to be concerned about heavy oil spills, where are your voices with respect to existing diluted butumen transported to Burnaby and through our coastal waters? You should be joining us in demanding that bitumen is upgraded to synthetic crude in Alberta and that heavy oil be kept out of our coastal waters. To those politicians who claim to be against pipelines, where are your voices with respect to the growing trend of rail transport and the fact that the common carrier obligation prohibits a rail company from refusing to carry oil?

It's time to get politics out of environmental policy and serious environmental policy into politics. After all, the environment really doesn't care which political party you belong to.