BC meeting GHG reduction targets, but setting up smokescreen for LNG

Tides Canada report concludes LNG plants will be 300% dirtier than electricity-driven operations.

VICTORIA — A report presented to the United Nations indicates BC is meeting its legislated targets to cut greenhouse gas pollution, but environmental leaders say that won’t last much longer even if the province sets up a smokescreen to hide the air pollution created by proposed liquefied natural gas operations.

Environment Canada’s national inventory submission in April to the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change shows BC’s greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions have declined almost 6% since 2007 when the province passed its law to cut the emissions by 33% by 2020.

The inventory report, which measures GHG emissions from farms, factories, vehicles, gas fields and numerous other entities, measured BC’s carbon dioxide emissions at 59,100 kilo tonnes in 2011 – the most recent numbers. In 2007, when BC passed its Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act, Environment Canada reported that BC emitted 62,600 kilo tonnes of GHGs.

The report stated Canada’s total GHG emissions for 2011 measured 702 megatonnes, up 19% since 1990, when the report first started measuring pollution emissions.

But BC climate scientist Mark Jaccard, who helped the Liberal government develop its climate targets law and implement the carbon tax, said he’s given up on Canada’s GHG reduction plans and is now working with the California Energy Commission which is advising US President Barack Obama on cutting emissions.

Jaccard said if BC really wanted its residents to know if the province was hitting or missing its targets Premier Christy Clark would call in independent reviewers to examine the results.

“If Christy were like (former premier Gordon Campbell), she would have them estimate, and then publicly release, the effect of LNG and other policies on BC’s GHG target,” he said. “If Christy were like (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper she would not.”

Jaccard said the BC government needs to feel continuous pressure from British Columbians about its legislated goal to cut GHG emissions by 33% within the next seven years.

“They are not interested in climate and GHG reduction,” he said. “I work with groups making suggestions to the Obama government and associated institutions. And I work directly with the California Energy Commission. And I have done a bit for Canada’s Auditor General. But since Gordon Campbell left and since Stephen Harper got a majority there is no interest in people like me from our provincial and federal governments.”

BC’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets law mandates regular reporting of the most up-to-date emissions numbers.

Campbell’s Liberals also established a Climate Action Secretariat to support programs across the province that reduce GHG emissions. The secretariat now is part of the Ministry of Environment.

Victoria-area Green party MLA Andrew Weaver, who with Jaccard once served on Campbell’s blue ribbon environmental advisory Climate Action Team, said the BC Liberals want to tell British Columbians the province is meeting its reduction targets, but once the LNG plants fire up, those targets are meaningless.

“They simply cannot go down the path and produce the LNG they want to produce and stay within their targets without abandoning them,” said Weaver, also a noted climate scientist. “Natural gas is not clean energy. It’s cleaner than coal, but it’s not clean energy.”

Weaver said clean energy is renewable energy like electricity or wind.

A report by Tides Canada released a report that concluded BC will not achieve its goal to develop the cleanest LNG plants in the world because natural gas fuelled LNG operations will produce emissions three times dirtier than electricity-driven operations in Australia and Norway.

But Environment Minister Mary Polak steadfastly maintains the government is committed to meeting its emissions reduction targets and she’s counting on industry and governments, local and provincial to find ways to cut GHG emissions.

Polak wouldn’t speculate on suggestions by Weaver and Jaccard that the government will completely exempt emissions from natural gas fuelled LNG plants from the targets law.

“You’re still dealing with a hypothetical,” she said. “On top of that, there’s every likelihood that you will see a range of approaches from different companies and different technologies,” she said.

© 2013 The Canadian Press