Opinion: time for Premier Horgan to do the climate math

Jens Wieting: Liquefied Natural Gas doesn't square with our emissions commitments

As Premier John Horgan departed for Asia to woo members of the consortium behind the LNG Canada proposal, he needs to be reminded that British Columbia can’t build new LNG plants and meet emissions targets.

The Premier has indicated he will meet with KoGas, Mitsubishi and PetroChina – all members of the LNG Canada consortium – during his trip to Asia. Shell Canada is also a member of the LNG Canada consortium.

If LNG Canada goes ahead, it alone could account for more than three-quarters of B.C.’s allowable emissions in 2050.

No matter what government is in power, exporting liquefied fracked gas to Asia will make it impossible for B.C. to meet our legislated climate targets.

The math simply doesn’t add up.

According to the Pembina Institute, under current policies, LNG Canada’s emissions would total 9.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2050. B.C.’s emissions target in 2050 is 12.6 million tonnes.

We know, due to years of climate inaction by the previous government, B.C. needs to act fast to meet our 2020 target.

Promoting LNG is either misleading LNG corporations into believing their projects can proceed within climate laws, or it’s misleading British Columbians who elected a government promising climate action.

We can fool ourselves, but not the climate: fracked gas is a recipe to deepen the climate crisis.

Only last week, a draft report by the United Nations warned we need a profound shift away from fossil fuels to avoid blowing past the 1.5 C temperature increase limit aspired to in the Paris climate agreement by mid-century.

Economists, such as the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, have been warning energy companies of the risk that fossil fuels may become stranded, worthless assets as a result of needed climate action.

Real climate action cannot be delayed anymore.

With renewable energy increasingly competitive and climate impacts increasingly catastrophic, British Columbians are no longer willing to accept inaction. Climate leadership means soliciting investments in clean energy infrastructure, not LNG.

Horgan’s mandate letter to environment and climate change strategy minister George Heyman instructs him to “implement a comprehensive climate action strategy” to meet “carbon pollution reduction targets.”

Yet decisive action remains to be seen. Instead of sharing emissions data in the form of a detailed report every second year as in the past, the provincial government quietly updated its greenhouse gas inventory with a simple excel file on the eve of the December holiday season.

The data showed that emissions were higher in 2015 than in 2010 and have risen in four of the last five years. In 2015, they were only two per cent below 2007 levels.

The latest data mark years of failure to reduce emissions by more than a token amount. Ten years after the previous government legislated the target to reduce emissions by 33 per cent from 2007 levels by 2020, we are essentially in the same place we started.

B.C. has just two years to make up for this lack of progress and to prepare steps to achieve much more dramatic emissions reductions needed to contribute to the goal agreed to at the Paris climate summit to keep global warming below two degrees.

Fortunately, wind and solar are now beating the price of fossil fuel energy in a growing number of countries.

Energy efficiency, grid and battery solutions are being developed at a mind-boggling pace and contribute more and cleaner jobs than resource extraction sectors.

But our province, like so many other parts of the world, needs the leadership necessary to quickly phase in solutions and abandon climate polluting projects, such as new LNG terminals.

Premier Horgan needs to do the climate math before he starts making sales pitches.

Jens Wieting is the Forests and Climate Campaigner for Sierra Club BC.

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