In the speech from the throne that introduces each new legislative session, the government said it will work to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 percent below current levels by 2020. That target will place emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels.
After watching provincial greenhouse gas emissions increase by 35 percent since 1994, the government is opting for immediate action. 'The science is clear. It leaves no room for procrastination,' the government said.
'Climate change is real, and British Columbians are telling us we must do more as a government and as individuals,' said B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell. 'We will act to stem the growth of global warming and minimize the impacts already unleashed by establishing targets and actions and by working with our national and international neighbors.'
On the way to the 2020 target, said the government in the throne speech, a Climate Action Team will set interim targets for 2012 and 2016 and a longer-term emissions reduction target for 2050.
The Climate Action Team will also be asked to identify 'practicable options and actions' for making the government of B.C. carbon neutral within four years - by 2010.
Seismic upgrades at the Parliament Buildings will include new standards of energy efficiency.
The provincial government said it will work with the federal government and Pacific states to develop a 'sensible, efficient system to register, trade, and purchase carbon offsets and credits.'
All electricity produced in B.C. will be required to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2016, the government promised.
'These measures will demand new personal commitment, new investments and new funding,' said B.C. Lieutenant Governor Iona Campagnolo, delivering the speech from the throne. 'The cost of climate change is directly related to our consumption.'
The Sierra Club of B.C. welcomed the measures to combat the province's rising greenhouse gas emissions. “We congratulate the province for recognizing the urgency of the science and also that battling global warming can be an economic opportunity,” said Campaigns Director Lisa Matthaus.
'I'm very encouraged by this,' said broadcaster, author and environmentalist David Suzuki. 'I have great hopes for it.'
Generating Climate Neutral Power
Effective immediately, British Columbia will become the first jurisdiction in the world to require 100 percent carbon sequestration for any coal-fired electricity project. Sequestration is a new technology in which greenhouse gases are injected underground or beneath the ocean.
Today British Columbia's has no coal-fired power plants.
About 90 percent of the province's electricity comes from hydropower, which does not emit greenhouse gases. The rest is generated by three natural gas-fueled power plants.
But last July, the province's Crown-owned electric utility, BC Hydro, awarded contracts to two proposed coal-fired power plants in Tumbler Ridge and Princeton that would be the first in the province. If these projects proceed, they would emit greenhouse gases.
In its roadmap for new climate regulations, the government said that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry will be reduced to 2000 levels by 2016, including a zero-flaring requirement at producing wells and production facilities.
At the same time, the province is attempting to market its oil and gas resources to the world. At the end of January, Energy Minister Richard Neufeld attended the huge NAPE international oil and gas conference in Houston, Texas.
Neufeld was promoting the interior basins of British Columbia as the 'New Frontier' for oil and gas development.
In its new legislative plan, the government announced a new $25 million Innovative Clean Energy Fund to encourage the commercialization of alternative energy solutions such as bioenergy, geothermal energy, tidal, run-of-the river, solar, and wind power.
Legislation will be developed to phase in requirements for methane capture at landfills, the source of about nine percent of B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Cleaning Up Automotive Transport
Following California's lead, the B.C. government said it will establish a low-carbon fuel standard that will reduce 'carbon intensity' of all passenger vehicles by at least 10 percent by 2020.
Tailpipe emission standards for all new vehicles sold in B.C. will be phased in between 2009 and 2016, reducing carbon dioxide emissions from autos by 30 percent.
The provincial government intends to work with its neighbors to create electrified truck stops to reduce idling, which emits greenhouse gases and other air toxics.
Beginning this month, all new cars leased or purchased by the province will be hybrids, and for ordinary car buyers, the $2,000 sales tax exemption on new hybrid vehicles will be extended.
A federal-provincial partnership will invest C$89 million for hydrogen fueling stations and the world’s first fleet of 20 fuel cell buses, the government said. The new fueling stations are part of the initial phase of the hydrogen highway from Whistler Mountain to Vancouver, Surrey, and the provincial capital of Victoria.
The provincial government will reach across the border in cooperation with Pacific states to encourage what is planned to be the longest hydrogen highway in the world - from Whistler to San Diego - by 2020.
Greener Homes and Buildings
A new unified B.C. Green Building Code will be developed with industry and communities, the government pledged, and new incentives will be offered to retrofit existing homes and buildings to make them energy efficient.
New measures will help homeowners undertake 'energy audits' to identify possible energy savings, and the government plans 'real-time, in-home smart metering' to help homeowners measure and reduce energy consumption.
New strategies will be launched to promote greener universities, colleges, hospitals, schools, prisons, ferries, and airports.
'Over the next year, the province will consider the range of possibilities aimed at encouraging personal choices that are environmentally responsible,' Campagnolo said in the throne speech. 'The province will explore ways to encourage shifts in behavior that reduce carbon consumption through tax savings.'
A new Citizen’s Conservation Council will be established and funded, the government promised.
The province will ensure that school curricula will inform students of ways that they can reduce individual impacts on the environment at home and at work.
In the Forests
The throne speech promised that the province will 'substantially increase' its tree-planting efforts.
The conical beehive burners that burn woody waste biomass from lumbering operations will be eliminated.
Several new Class A parks and conservancies will be established and existing ones expanded.
Changes will be introduced to strengthen forest stewardship and reduce forest fire risk.
Actions will be taken to improve forest health, encourage better utilization of beetle-killed timber and salvage fiber, and strengthen actions against those who damage the province's forest or range resources.
This spring, the provincial government will invite all Pacific Coast governors and key ministers to British Columbia to forge a new Pacific Coast Collaborative extending from Alaska to California.
Premier Campbell will meet with governors to assess and address the impact of climate change on oceans and establish common standards for Pacific ports.
The province will seek federal cooperation to electrify ports and reduce container ship carbon emissions in all Canadian ports.
The Critics Weigh In
There was plenty of criticism of the Liberals' new green trend. The New Democratic Party's Opposition Leader Carole James called the plan 'hot air' and called for an all-party Climate Change Committee of the Legislature to consult with British Columbians and recommend greenhouse gas emission reduction targets before the end of the spring legislative session.
James said there must be no conventional coal fired energy production in the province.
She said the government should 'aggressively expand' tax incentives for hybrid, alternative fuel and fuel efficient automobiles and trucks. The government plan extends the $2,000 tax incentive but does not expand it.
James called on Premier Campbell to drop his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, which Canada has ratified.
She wants the Liberals to work with the New Democrat Opposition to pass a unanimous motion in the Legislature 'demanding the federal government develop a plan to implement Canada’s national Kyoto obligations in a fair and economically achievable way.'
'Gordon Campbell has stood in the way of a national plan since 2001,” said James. “But he knows that long-term emission reductions can only be achieved with a national plan that recognizes the economic and social differences between provinces and provides funding to support the technological changes we must make.'
The NDP has 33 seats in the Legislative Assembly, while the Liberals hold 46 seats.
B.C. Conservative Leader, Wilf Hanni said his party, which currently holds no seats in the Legislature, would pass legislation calling for automobile emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2025, a reduction of about 30 percent.