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B.C. greenhouse gas emissions up 5%, not counting forest offsets

Minister George Heyman off to Glasgow for climate summit
B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman speaks to reporters at the B.C. legislature, May 2018. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

As B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman leads a delegation to Scotland for the annual United Nations climate summit next week, the province has released its latest greenhouse gas inventory showing emissions continue to rise.

Ministry data show a five per cent increase in overall emissions for 2019, the latest results available after a broad canvass of industry, transportation, buildings and other sources that takes two years. The latest results come as the B.C. government increases measures in its CleanBC plan, including a new target to reduce vehicle travel by 25 per cent from 2020 to 2030, replacing it with transit, walking and cycling. B.C. has no coal or gas-fired power production, and must turn to emissions from transportation and building heat for much of the gains.

The NDP government abandoned the previous B.C. Liberal target for 2025, recognizing it could not be reached, and set a new 2030 goal on the way to a “net zero” economy by 2050. The base year for B.C. emissions is 2007, when the Gordon Campbell government introduced the first carbon tax in Canada, and the moving target increases the gap.

“B.C.’s progress to its 2030 target in 2019 was -6%,” the environment ministry said on its website Oct. 25. “In other words, the province was 6% further away from its 2030 target than in 2007.”

Including “afforestation,” mainly returning cleared land to forest growth, B.C.’s climate action secretariat calculates the net increase for 2019 is only 2%.

B.C. has a history of controversial forest carbon offsets. Former Auditor General John Doyle criticized two carbon offset programs in 2010, calling them “not credible.” One was the preservation of a Kootenay forest called Darkwoods that was already protected from logging, and the other was subsidies to Encana Corp. for a northeast natural gas emissions control program that Doyle said would have happened without public dollars.

Another forest offset program was directed by British manufacturing conglomerate now called Reckitt, which owns food and product brands such as French’s, Clearasil, Scholl and Woolite. Reckitt wound up its program to buy up what it called marginal farmland in the Vanderhoof and Cariboo regions, after local governments objected that it was not marginal land and the replanting program was weakening the farm economy.

RELATED: British firm backs off program to buy, reforest B.C. farms

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While setting new, more ambitious targets since taking office, Premier John Horgan’s government delayed the scheduled 2020 B.C. carbon tax increase due to the economic impact of the pandemic. That $5 increase went ahead in April 2021, and another $5 jump takes effect on April 1, 2022, to keep up with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minimum imposed on provinces for carbon emission pricing.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation continued its campaign against the fuel tax Thursday, issuing a new report on the impact. The federal plan to increase carbon taxes to $170 per tonne by 2030 would increase carbon tax on a litre of gasoline from 10 cents to 40 cents over nine years, the report says.


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