VICTORIA — B.C.’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade has been virtually wiped out due to large increases in carbon pollution the last two years, according to new government data released Monday.
The province’s pollution levels reached almost 64.5 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent in 2017, according to the most recent figures from the new government inventory. That’s an increase of 1.2 per cent from 2016, mainly due to the then-booming residential construction sector, agriculture, manufacturing and transportation.
B.C.’s GHG emissions have now increased in five of the last seven years. Carbon pollution is back up to the 2007 level of 64.8 million tonnes. That’s a key distinction because 2007 is the benchmark year the province uses to determine its progress in fighting pollution.
The NDP government has set a target of achieving a 40 per cent reduction in GHG levels from 2007 levels by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent by 2050.
“We are pretty much back to where we started,” said Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner at Sierra Club B.C.
“There’s a very small difference. We must be very concerned because the way climate change is unfolding means that if we don’t act today we are not getting another kick at the can in 10 years.”
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The 2017 figures predate the NDP government’s new CleanBC climate plan introduced in December, said Karen Tam Wu, B.C. director of the Pembina Institute.
“These numbers represent what’s happened in a climate where any policy on climate action has been stalled,” she said. “It’s not a surprise to see an increase.”
It’s important to monitor whether B.C. shows a future uptake in heat pumps, electric vehicles, the electrification of the upstream oil and gas sector and other GHG-reducing initiatives, she said.
Environment Minister George Heyman said his CleanBC plan — which promotes energy efficiency, retrofits and a move toward electric vehicles, among other measures — won’t start too far behind because it largely predicted the 2017 increases.
“We didn’t know what the numbers would be but we were certainly expecting a result something like this,” Heyman said Monday.
“I don’t necessarily expect (a decrease) to happen next year either. We’re just at the beginning of implementing a range of measures over the next three years, which we funded significantly in the B.C. budget, and which will take some time to bear fruit. But we are were determined to see emissions start ramping down in the near future and continue down on a significant trajectory between now and 2030, and 2040 and 2050.
“Frankly I think that’s necessary for all of us to escape even worse impacts from climate change.”
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B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver, who has endorsed the NDP climate plan, said the province faces a tough road ahead.
“We designed the CleanBC economic plan to start to tackle this challenge,” said Weaver in a statement.
“Now that it is being implemented I expect we’ll start to see some slight emissions reductions, but it is clear we have a long way to go and we need to remain diligent in our commitment to our reduction targets.”
Weaver echoed criticism from environmental groups that the NDP government’s approval of liquefied natural gas projects and fracking of natural gas will make achieving the CleanBC targets even more difficult.
“As long as we continue to support new fossil fuel projects with billion dollar subsidies we cannot expect that we can accomplish the needed reductions,” said Wieting.
B.C.’s return to 2007 levels comes despite its introduction of a carbon tax in 2008. The tax has risen to $40 per tonne, adding roughly 8.89 cents a litre to the price of gasoline at the pump.
The 2017 figures do not include carbon pollution caused by the record wildfires. Doing so would more than triple B.C.’s total emissions. B.C.’s forestry emissions remain a hidden pollution source that should be fully accounted for by government said Wieting.
This content was originally published here.