February 26, 2007

BC throne speech takes bold approach to environment, climate change

The British Columbia government's throne speech inaugurating the third session of its 38th parliament calls for bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including a pledge to establish targets, actions and processes aimed at reducing BC's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 33% below current levels by 2020. That would bring the province's emissions to 10% below 1990 levels.

"Climate change is real, and British Columbians are telling us we must do more as a government and as individuals," said 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 neighbours."

Initiatives to tackle the challenge of global warming will yield a wide range of environmental benefits. As outlined in the speech, the government's plans include the following actions.

Interim targets will be set for 2012 and 2016 through a Climate Action Team which will determine the most credible, aggressive and economically viable targets. A longer-term emissions reduction target will be set for 2050. The Climate Action Team will also be asked to find and present practicable options and actions for making the BC government carbon neutral by 2010.

The government intends to require all electricity produced in BC to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2016. Additionally, GHG 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.

The energy plan will further require that 90% of BC's electricity come from clean, renewable sources. And, effective immediately, BC will become the first jurisdiction in North America, if not the world, to require 100% carbon sequestration for any coal-fired electricity project. Trees infested by the mountain pine beetle will be used to create new, clean energy.

Finally, BC will establish 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.

Addressing vehicle emissions, the province will phase in tailpipe emission standards for all new vehicles sold in BC between 2009 and 2016, reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from automobiles by 30%. A low-carbon fuel standard will also be established to reduce the carbon intensity of all passenger vehicles by at least 10% by 2020.

The $2,000 sales tax exemption on new hybrid vehicles will be extended. Beginning this month, all new cars leased or purchased by the province will be hybrids.

Housing and building-related GHG emissions will be addressed through a new, unified BC Green Building Code, to be developed with industry and communities. New incentives will be introduced to retrofit existing homes and buildings to make them energy efficient. This will be backed up with new measures to help homeowners undertake "energy audits" to seek out possible energy savings. Real-time, in-home smart metering will help homeowners measure and reduce energy consumption.

Legislation will be developed to phase in requirements for methane capture at landfills, the source of about 9% of BC's GHG emissions. Beehive burners will be eliminated as well.

A federal-provincial partnership will invest $89 million for hydrogen fuelling stations and the world's first fleet of 20 fuel cell buses. The new fuelling stations are part of the initial phase of the hydrogen highway from Whistler to Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria.

BC plans to work with Pacific states to encourage construction of a hydrogen highway from Whistler to San Diego by 2020. It would be the longest hydrogen highway in the world.

Other international activities include inviting all Pacific Coast governors and key ministers to BC this spring to forge a new Pacific Coast Collaborative extending from Alaska to California. The Premier will also meet with governors to assess and address the impact of climate change on our oceans and establish common standards for Pacific ports.

BC will work with its neighbours to create electrified truck stops to reduce idling, and will seek federal co-operation to electrify ports and reduce container ship carbon emissions in all Canadian ports. The province will also collaborate with the federal government and Pacific partners to develop a sensible, efficient system to register, trade, and purchase carbon offsets and credits.

Recognizing the contribution of personal choices to dealing with climate change and improving the environment, BC will consider the range of possibilities aimed at encouraging personal choices that are environmentally responsible. This will include exploring ways to encourage shifts in behaviour that reduce carbon consumption through tax savings. Finally, a new Citizens' Conservation Council will be established and funded.

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