The Kyoto Treaty, which is now in place, just came into force two years ago this Friday. Little has been done to seriously address this problem which is literally threatening life on Earth as we know it. Since 1997, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to grow here in British Columbia and across Canada. Voluntary regimes have not worked. In 2007, British Columbia will take concerted provincial action to halt and reverse the growth in greenhouse gases.
The government will act now and will act deliberately.
Those were the words of British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell during the government's annual throne speech today. In it he outlined a climate change plan for BC that is both visionary and bold, bettering the standards mandated by California while setting explicit targets for government, automobiles and the energy industry. The list of actions is extensive and their scope broad, offering the potential to make BC a national leader in tackling global warming.
Specific actions in the plan include:
- a call to reduce BC's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 per cent below current levels by 2020. This will place British Columbia's greenhouse gas emissions at 10 per cent under 1990 levels by 2020 with interim targets set for 2012 and 2016 and the establishment of long term targets to 2050.
- a carbon neutral BC government by 2010.
- electricity self-sufficiency for BC by 2016.
- net zero emissions for all new and existing electricity production by 2016.
- reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry to 2000 levels by 2016, including a requirement for zero flaring at producing wells and production facilities.
- at least 90 per cent of the provinces electricity to come from clean, renewable sources.
- an immediate requirement for 100 per cent carbon sequestration in any coal-fired project.
- biomass power generation fueled by trees infested by the mountain pine beetle.
- the elimination of beehive burners in the province.
- mandatory methane capture in landfills, which currently represents nine per cent of B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions.
- establishment of the world's first fleet of 20 fuel cell buses.
- new emission standards for cars phased from 2009 to 2016 including a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide.
- beginning this month, all new cars leased or purchased by the provincial government will be hybrid vehicles.
Campbell also promises a market based approach to develop a carbon trading network with the federal government and other Pacific partners, and plans to work with California to address the climate change impacts from ocean resources and to establish common environmental standards for all Pacific ports.
Critics will likely take aim at one key point. Campbell did not say that his aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets would be legislated into force - something that California did last year. However, for all the criticism the BC Liberals have received for various policies in the past, what they have done is consistently followed through on the explicit promises they make to voters.
The fact today's speech was made in such concrete terms bodes very well for BC's new place as a leader in addressing global warming in Canada.