On Oct. 25, the province launched a newly updated climate plan, called the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030, meant to help accelerate British Columbia’s transition to a net-zero economy by 2050.
The most significant measures introduced include a commitment to increase the price on carbon pollution, a new requirement to make sure all new buildings have zero carbon emissions by 2030, and a nation-leading adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) by the same year.
“My initial thought is that in many ways, [the plan] continues and accelerates actions that the province had already committed to,” says Ellen Pond, a policy studies instructor at KPU. Pond also coordinates KPU’s Climate+ Challenge, an initiative launched in the fall semester to get KPU talking, learning and thinking about solutions to the climate emergency.
“At the beginning of the carbon tax, we were a leader … and now we’re going to align with the federal government, which is quite an ambitious target,” she says.
Another way B.C. is moving ahead with the transition to zero-carbon by 2030 is by implementing policies that encourage more electric vehicle use.
“We’re ahead of their target and electric vehicles are one of the easiest early wins, … [so] that one absolutely makes sense,” Pond says.
Ninety per cent of new passenger cars and light-duty trucks are expected to be electric in B.C. by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2035, according to the plan.
The federal plan also aims for 100 per cent light-duty cars and trucks sold to be ZEV by 2035.
“The big elephant in the room is that we’re still expanding the fossil fuel industry in this province,” Pond says.
“When they say, ‘we’re going to reduce industrial emissions,’ what they mean is from production, [so we are still] exporting emissions elsewhere in the world,” Pond says.
Exporting allows B.C. to expand the oil and gas industry while also preventing other countries from moving away from oil and gas.
“It also side-steps the fact that we’ve had plans and legislative targets for a long time, and we’ve always missed them … they just quietly got rid of the 2020 target because we totally missed it,” Pond says.
In a media release by the B.C. Green Party, party leader Sonia Furstenau also said that “BC will see a marked increase in fracking as a result of the NDP’s $6-billion giveaway to LNG Canada … undermining B.C.’s ability to achieve this plan and be a climate leader.”
George Heyman, the provincial minister of environment and climate change strategy, said in an interview with the CBC that even if B.C. reduced emissions by 100 per cent tomorrow, climate change would still continue.
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything, and it certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be ambitious,” he said.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said in a press release that “the scale of the climate emergency we are living through demands that we act with even greater urgency.”
“No one person, or government, can turn things around on their own. It will take all of us doing our part to seize the opportunity in overcoming this historic challenge,” he said.
One of the challenges that Pond sees with some climate plans is that there is often a gap between modelling emissions reductions and getting the policy change and achieving those reductions.
“So the challenge will be that implementation gap,” says Pond.