British Columbia waited until a quiet Friday afternoon in August to release a long-delayed climate plan that includes no increase in the province’s once-innovative carbon tax, postpones meaningful climate action for 15 years, and fails to fully accept any of the recommendations of the high-powered Climate Leadership Team that Premier Christy Clark had appointed to advise her on the plan.
“At Long Last, B.C. Releases a Plan…to Procrastinate Even More on Cutting Carbon Pollution,” Clean Energy Canada observed in its comments on what it called the province’s “Climate
Leadership Procrastination Plan”.
“If the primary goal of a climate plan is to cut carbon pollution, the B.C. government is planning to fail,” CEC said in a release. “Under this plan, British Columbia’s carbon pollution will be as high 15 years from now as it is today. Even looking out to 2050, this plan would leave B.C.’s carbon pollution four times higher than its legislated 2050 target”—and “this is the best-case scenario.”
“Last year, the Climate Leadership Team showed clearly that B.C. can both meet its climate targets and maintain a strong economy without trading one for the other. That’s still the right bar to be aiming for, and it’s a bar that B.C. has missed with today’s announcement,” agreed Josha McNab, the Pembina Institute’s B.C. director.
“A climate plan must do two things: reduce emissions, and support B.C.’s transition to a clean economy, so it can remain competitive in a decarbonizing global market. With today’s plan, B.C. has missed key opportunities on both fronts.”
B.C.’s $30-per-tonne carbon tax was groundbreaking when it was introduced in 2008, still standing as a signature achievement for ex-premier Gordon Campbell. But Clark, who faces a provincial election next spring, shocked analysts and observers by rejecting the Climate Leadership Team’s call for a $10-per-tonne increase beginning in 2018.
“I have to balance the need to make sure that our carbon tax remains world leading with the obligation to ensure that family affordability is at the forefront of our minds as well as protecting our economy and job creation,” she told media. “A climate plan is not just about carbon pricing.”
But while the premier announced a suite of 21 specific measures—from methane controls and reforestation, to expanded electric vehicle use—analysis by Clean Energy Canada indicated the plan would only cut 2.1 of the 25 megatonnes Clark claimed.
On Friday, Press Progress connected the deeply disappointing result of the province’s planning process with Clark’s decision to put a former Fraser Institute director in charge of translating the Leadership Team recommendations into policy. Key Leadership Team members took to Twitter with their frustration.
“Being asked as member BC’s Climate Leadership Team what I think of this plan,” tweeted climate analyst and campaigner Tzeporah Berman. “Pathetic and cowardly. U can quote me.” She added that “this is not a climate plan. It’s not even policy. It’s just PR.”
“BC climate leadership fizzles,” wrote CEC Executive Director Merran Smith. “BC’s carbon emissions will be about same in 2030 as today. Not leadership.”
“#BCClimatePlan to plant baby trees a farce,” commented Sierra Club BC. “Protecting old-growth is better #BCClimateFraud.”
McNabb said she was shocked the province had cherry-picked the Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations (and, critics pointed out, failed to implement any of them in full), when the expert panel had warned against precisely that response. “The Climate Leadership Team was very clear that the recommendations needed to be accepted as a package,” she told DeSmog Canada.
“They warned against picking and choosing amongst the recommendations that they put forward.”
She added that “the depths of August on a Friday afternoon is not the time you release a plan that you want a lot of people to pay attention to.”
DeSmog’s Emma Gilchrist noted that governments “often ‘take out the trash’ on Fridays during the dog days of summer, and this time is no different.