It’s been a summer of catastrophic weather events that have devastated the globe: record setting heat waves in Europe, China and the U.S. and the most severe fire season Canada has ever seen — Alberta, Nova Scotia, Quebec, the Northwest Territories and B.C. being the worst hit.
These events are a tragic reminder of why we need strong climate policies. The Energy Action Framework announced by Premier David Eby in March plugged a hole in B.C.’s climate plan by committing to developing a policy to drive down oil and gas emissions to meet the 2030 target and developing a requirement for new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities to be net-zero by 2030.
It also signalled a recognition that the province needs more electricity to meet its climate goals and a pivot to attracting investment in the clean economy instead of LNG.
LNG development is the biggest threat to B.C.’s climate targets, and the government was right to announce a policy to ensure the sector would do its fair share.
Since the announcement, B.C. has set up a B.C. Hydro task force to accelerate the electrification of B.C.’s buildings, vehicles, and industries and established the Clean Energy and Major Projects office to fast-track investment in clean energy projects.
The province is working on a new industrial carbon pricing system, a cap on oil and gas emissions, new regulations on oil and gas methane emissions, and a legislated net-zero target. To achieve net-zero, LNG terminals will need to be fully electrified. LNG Canada Phase 1 will only be partly electric, while Woodfibre will be fully electric. All the other remaining projects have committed to going electric, but the question remains as to where the electricity will come from, and who will pay for the transmission lines. These terminals will require new gas production in the Montney area, much of which will also need to be electrified for B.C. to have a change at meeting its climate targets.
The proposed industrial carbon pricing system, oil and gas emissions cap, and net-zero requirement by 2030 for new LNG and accountability rules are the most ambitious policies of their kind in the country. The government has committed to developing many of these in the next six months, an ambitious timeline.
B.C. has been less ambitious with its proposed methane rules, which are weaker than what the federal government and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have proposed.
One question that remains is the direction of B.C.’s broader economic strategy. As others have pointed out, the recently announced Regional Resource and Energy Table indicates the province is headed in the right direction focusing on advancing clean energy projects.
But a large and powerful LNG lobby remains. The province will soon have two LNG terminals — LNG Canada Phase 1 and Woodfibre — and the B.C. government will face intense pressure to reverse decisions that prioritize investments in growing a clean energy economy and instead allocate electricity to expanding LNG production.
There is a clear global consensus and momentum in shifting away from fossil fuels toward clean energy. Most credible agencies, including BP, Equinor and the International Energy Agency, agree that if the world continues at its current pace of climate action, we will need less natural gas and more clean energy. The IEA says that in every scenario, except for a detour away from the current path of decarbonization, the world already has enough LNG projects.
Premier Eby has chosen to prioritize investments in clean energy projects to feed a growing global appetite for wind, solar, critical minerals, clean hydrogen and other key components of the energy transition. He should aspire to help other countries follow B.C.’s lead and invest in exporting products the world will need more of — clean energy.
If B.C. can keep the ambition it has shown so far, it will create a prosperous clean energy economy, instead of increasing reliance on LNG — a risky bet in a world that is moving away from fossil fuels.
Jan Gorski is director of the oil and gas program at the Pembina Institute.
Bookmark our website and support our journalism: Don’t miss the news you need to know — add VancouverSun.com and TheProvince.com to your bookmarks and sign up for our newsletters here.
You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $14 a month, you can get unlimited, ad-lite access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.