Bill 2 – Harper Tories Masquerading as BC Liberals Destroy Legacy of Climate Leadership

Today marks the day when the BC Liberals revealed their true colors. Today marks a day when the BC Liberals took a page from the Harper Tories and destroyed a legacy of climate leadership in British Columbia. In what will become known as a defining moment in BC history, the BC Liberals introduced second reading of Bill 2 — Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act,  and subsequently spoke strongly in support of it. Bill 2 represents a shameful betrayal of future generations. It dismantles key elements of Premier Gordon Campbell’s climate policies. And it replaces these policies with a made-in-Alberta, Harper government approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions intensity

Today the BC NDP, Vicki Huntington, the Independent member from Delta South, and I spoke together in unity and in opposition to this shameful piece of legislation. Just minutes before the vote, I tweeted  to the BC Liberals that as they reflected on the hoist motion, they might want to view this:

Full text of speech


There are moments in our lives that serve as turning points. For me, one of those moments was on February 19, 2008. On that day, I sat on the floor of this chamber for the first time, as the hon. Carole Taylor presented a vision for British Columbia, one that attempted to redefine the legacy we would leave our children.

The vision wasn’t hers alone. It was the vision of then-Premier Gordon Campbell. It was a vision of his Environment Minister, the hon. Barry Penner, and it was the vision of the majority of British Columbians.

It was also the vision of the province’s Climate Action Team. Created in 2007, the province’s Climate Action Team comprised a body of experts around the province that included the now member for Cariboo-Chilcotin, who at the time was the mayor of the district of 100 Mile House. I, too, had the great privilege of serving on the Climate Action Team.

That day was a turning point for me. It was a day when I was incredibly proud to be a British Columbian. My government, our government, took a bold step forward in recognizing that while British Columbia may represent a drop in the proverbial bucket of international greenhouse gas emissions, it was important to demonstrate leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Government also realized that demonstrating leadership was an economic opportunity.

As I watched this progress start to unravel back in 2012, I decided I could no longer sit on the sidelines. I had to get involved myself. So here I am today, in part, thanks to the work that we did back in 2008.

That day was also a turning point in British Columbia’s history. It not only put us on a path to lead the continent in climate policy but stood as a testament to what could be accomplished when experts around the province come together with the government to help to answer an essential question: in the context of all the challenge we are facing, what can we do today to offer our children a brighter future?

When the Climate Action Team was assembled in 2007, it was tasked with three actions. First, to offer expert advice to the province’s cabinet committee on climate action on the most credible, aggressive and economically viable targets possible for 2012 and 2016. Second, to identify further actions in the short and medium term to reduce emissions and meet the 2020 target. Third, to provide advice on the provincial government’s commitment to become carbon-neutral by 2010.

Earlier in 2007 the provincial government had enacted the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act. I had the privilege of sitting in the gallery, again with the member for Cariboo-Chilcotin, the day the legislation was introduced and read for the first time. The government set a bold yet achievable 2020 target of reducing our emissions by 33 percent below 2007 levels and a 2050 target of reducing our emissions by 80 percent below 2007 levels.

Starting at roughly 64.3 million tonnes of emissions in 2007, by 2020 we were tasked with reducing our emissions to 42.9 million tonnes, and by 2050 we were tasked with reducing our emissions to 12.8 million tonnes. Those targets were enshrined in law precisely because they were grounded in necessity.

Together with business leaders, scientists and policy experts, the Climate Action Team reviewed existing scientific literature and best in practice economic and environmental policy options. We rose to the challenges to which we were tasked, and our efforts culminated in the publication of our final report on August 6, 2008.

The report balanced environmental needs with economic needs, and we determined that, to have an impact, our interim targets and policy recommendations needed to be bold yet practical. They needed to be grounded in climate science yet viable for business. Together government, academics, industry leaders and First Nations made recommendations on innovative policies to address one of the most pressing issues of our time, and that is, of course, global warming.

We did so in the context of strong economic policy. Since the rollout of those and other greenhouse gas mitigation policies began in 2008, we’ve seen our economy outperform the Canadian average.

We’ve seen up-and-coming sectors like the technology sector become the second-largest contributor to private sector job growth, supplying 84,000 jobs for British Columbians and revenues of $18 billion a year. We’ve seen mining output and exports double in the last ten years, and we have seen more than $18 billion added to our provincial GDP. We did all of this while reducing our carbon emissions by over 4 percent from 2007 to 2012, the most recent date, of course, for which official data are available.

In fact, published studies have clearly concluded that the 2008 and subsequent climate policies have successfully reduced climate emissions while still supporting economic growth. To quote the former Finance Minister, the hon. Carole Taylor, the government offered a new vision for our province that confronted and completely overturned “the outdated notion that you have choose either a healthy environment or a strong economy. That’s simply not the case. That either-or thinking belongs to the past.”

 In 2008 our provincial boldly strode down a path that was grounded in real leadership and prosperous economic growth. That vision, those policies, are being dismantled with the legislation. I cannot stress this enough.

 Just this week September 2014 was announced as the warmest September on record. This announcement came a month after a similar one citing August 2014 as the warmest August on record. Before that June 2014 was the warmest June on record. Before that May 2014, the warmest May on record. And April 2014, the warmest April on record.

In fact — this statistic is very important — the last time a monthly cold record was set was in December 1916. Yet every monthly heat record has been post-1997. All around us we see the impacts global warming is having on the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events. It is therefore incumbent upon all of us to step up, to show leadership and to put our province back on the right course.

The simple fact is that we cannot build an LNG export industry governed by emissions intensity regulations like the ones proposed by the government and still meet our legislated climate targets. There are no two ways about it. The emissions from LNG are too big for accounting tricks and numbers games, and no bill can fix it.

According to estimates from the Pembina Institute, an LNG industry of the size proposed by the government would emit roughly 73 million tonnes of carbon pollution. That’s more than the emissions from every other sector of our economy combined. To meet our 2050 climate targets with an LNG industry of that size, we would have to reduce provincial emissions, which currently stand at 62 million tonnes, by 122 million tonnes. In other words, we would have to double the already bold commitments we set in 2008. That’s just simply not possible.

As a pundant told me, through LNG, the government has promised a Ferrari in everybody’s driveway. The reality is, if we want to meet these emissions, we’re really promising British Columbians a bicycle, because they cannot use cars if we’re going to have this LNG industry and actually meet our targets.

By Pembina’s estimates, even one LNG plant would likely emit 12 million tonnes of carbon pollution. That one LNG plant on its own would emit as much as our entire province under the 2050 target. I’m not making this stuff up. These are the numbers. You can pretend they don’t exist, or you can actually do the math yourself.

If we leave aside Pembina’s estimates for a moment and instead look at the government’s numbers, the story is the same. Even if we meet the government’s “cleanest LNG” — whatever that means— scenario, with an LNG emissions intensity of 0.16 carbon dioxide–equivalent tonnes for each tonne of liquefied natural gas produced, if B.C. exports 81 million tonnes of LNG each year, our downstream carbon emissions, on their own, would total 13 million tonnes.

 To be clear, that calculation, as the member for Vancouver–West End pointed out, doesn’t even include upstream emissions, which account for roughly 70 percent of all emissions in the LNG supply chain. The downstream emissions on their own, and under the best case scenario, would equal the total provincial carbon emissions set for 2050.

I mean, I’m not making this stuff up. I just don’t understand where the government’s mind is when they think that they can meet their 2050 and 2020 emissions targets and have five LNG plants.

The upstream emissions could add well over 43 million tonnes to the numbers I just cited, in addition, entirely blowing our legislated climate targets out of the window. I mean, I chuckle. I shouldn’t chuckle, because this is very serious. But I chuckle at the absurdity of the government’s direction in this piece of legislation.

The fact is this bill is an attempt to pull the wool over British Columbians’ eyes, to make us think we are reducing carbon emissions when instead we would actually be doing the opposite. If we pass this bill, we may as well say goodbye to all of the progress we worked so hard for — including the member for Cariboo-Chilcotin, who sat on the Climate Action Team with me — in 2008. We will be stepping into an era as one of the most polluting provinces in Canada, joining our friends, Alberta and Saskatchewan, as laggards in the climate change mitigation game.

This legislation would see us make a distinct shift from an innovative, made-in-B.C. approach to absolute reductions in the magnitude of our gashouse gas emissions, to a made-in-Alberta, Harper government approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions intensity — which, as we know from the Alberta experience, permits an overall increase in the magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, the climate system does not care about intensity. It cares about magnitude, and to pretend otherwise is not being truthful to oneself. It’s clear to me that this bill is ill-considered, misleading and a clear signal that we are losing our leadership in addressing global warming.

Thank you to the member for North Island here, who pointed out that actually we’ve lost our leadership — not losing.

When I read through the legislation before us, I couldn’t help but wonder why British Columbia has veered off its path towards substantive emissions reduction and instead moved down a road paved by Alberta.

What do I mean by a road paved in Alberta? Well, it’s truly remarkable to see the similarity between our new legislation here today and Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Act, as amended in 2007, together with its accompanying Specified Gas Emitters Regulation.

What this Alberta legislation and regulation did was require heavy emitters of greenhouse gases — and in the Alberta context I mean over 100,000 tonnes per year there — to reduce their emissions intensity, not their absolute magnitude of emissions, by 12 percent.

It gave large emitters four ways to accomplish this:

(1) making operating improvements;

(2) buying Alberta-based offsets;

(3) buying emissions performance credits — i.e., any excess emissions intensity reductions;

(4) paying $15 per tonne into a technology fund.

While the technology fund, as the member for Vancouver–West End pointed out, has not really worked in Alberta, it does set the stage for quite a number of photo opportunities for those claiming to actually be taking measures to mitigate climate change.

Does all of this sound familiar? It should. These are precisely the same four actions that this legislation will allow LNG facilities to take to meet their emissions intensity targets, at a slightly higher cost per tonne in B.C., although there have been musings in Alberta about raising the cost to 40 bucks per tonne.

Now here’s the problem. Again, our climate does not care about emissions intensity. It doesn’t care how much carbon is in a particular tonne of emissions coming from an LNG facility. Our climate cares about the overall magnitude of carbon pollution a facility would release and how much carbon pollution is in our atmosphere.

Under an emissions intensity model, the overall magnitude of emissions can increase substantially even while emissions intensity is falling. So why are we going down this path? Because the government knows, as any scientist does, that emissions are going to skyrocket if we develop our LNG industry.

An Alberta or Harper government–style emissions intensity model will provide the illusion of action — let me repeat, the illusion of action — on global warming at the same time as our overall magnitude of emissions continues to increase. That’s all this is: the illusion of action. To pretend otherwise is to be dishonest to ourselves. All one has to do is compare Alberta’s and B.C.’s emissions records over the last few years, and one will see that while B.C.’s emissions declined, Alberta’s continued to rise.

This government’s approach to Alberta or Harper government–style emissions intensity reductions is why this act will also repeal the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap and Trade) Act . The 2008 Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap and Trade) Act was one of many pieces of legislation brought in by the provincial government under the leadership — and I say leadership — of Premier Campbell. The act was specifically designed as enabling legislation to allow British Columbia to join its Western Climate Initiative partners, like Washington, Oregon, California, Manitoba and Quebec, to create a larger market for carbon trading.

As economists will tell you, the larger the region, the more economically efficient the cap and trade system would be. In repealing the 2008 Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap and Trade) Act, this legislation attempts to take the elements of a good piece of well-thought-out legislation and embed it into a politically driven process. The government is doing this because a cap-and-trade model puts a limit on the magnitude of emissions, and any limit, as such, would be inconsistent with the dramatic increase in emissions that we will see with this proposed yet entirely hypothetical LNG industry.

Again, we may decrease the emissions intensity, but the atmosphere really does not care about that. It only cares about the magnitude of emissions, and this bill is systematically designed to allow for a dramatic increase in emissions, right down to the repealing of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap and Trade) Act.

On September 22 the government issued a media release entitled “Statements by West Coast on the United Nations 2014 Climate Summit.” In it the Premier proudly proclaimed: “British Columbia has proven that there’s no need to choose between protecting the environment and growing the economy. B.C.’s revenue-neutral carbon tax has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while encouraging more sustainable economic development and competitive…rates.”

Compelling statements about the importance of dealing with global warming were incorporated in the press release from Governor Brown from California, Governor Kitzhaber from Oregon and Governor Inslee from Washington.

In the last few years we have made significant progress with our Pacific coast action plan on climate and energy partners, progress that would see the magnitude of emissions decline in a way that is consistent with continued, strong economic growth. This legislation would undermine that progress. I cannot stress this enough. Now is not the time to turn our backs on the progress that has been made. If we are not going to scrap this bill, then at the very least we should take the time necessary to properly consider its consequences.

With that in mind, hon. Speaker, I would like to table a hoist motion.


The Amendment


[I move that the motion for second reading on Bill 2, Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act, 2014 be amended by deleting the word “now” and substituting the words “6 months hence”.]


The Amendment Speech


Please allow me to speak to the reason why I put this hoist motion forward.

I spent much of my life working to improve our understanding of the science in past, present and future climate change and variability. My work took me to the forefront of international efforts in climate science. I’ve helped create an understanding of how changes in radiative forcing, amplified through feedback mechanisms operating internal to the climate system, allow for an explanation of the variations of climate change over the last 130,000 years.

I have been involved in local, provincial, national and international efforts to provide decision-makers with up-to-date scientific assessments of how increasing greenhouse gas in aerosol emissions, together with land use change, will impact society both now and into the future.

This did not happen overnight. I spent more than two decades pointing out the risks associated with unmitigated global warming, and I’ve advised decision-makers at all levels of government and industry of both the consequences of taking imminent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the opportunities that come when we do take action.

Now, I recognize that there are members on the government side of this House that believe — as calculated by Archbishop James Ussher, who lived from 1581 to 1656 — that the earth was created on Sunday the 23rd of October, 4,004 BC — making tomorrow particularly notable as the earth’s 6,017th birthday.

I also recognize that there are members on the government side of the House that believe that libertarian blog sites constitute primary sources for scientific information.

Nevertheless, it is a step forward that this government historically, and governments around the world, no longer believe it to be responsible, at least in words, to take the position that human-caused global warming is not changing the world and that mitigation and adaptation strategies aren’t an imperative.

Those jurisdictions that were the first to recognize the risks and also saw the opportunities that addressing climate change could offer are prospering. For example, Germany is far ahead of much of the world with its policies. It has made the adaptation and mitigation of climate change a key factor in how it develops its economy. China is also seizing the economic opportunities afforded by developing low-carbon technologies.

This is why we need the time to reflect upon the decisions that we are dealing with today — because what’s at stake is so incredibly important.

In the case of Germany, instead of focusing on one industry, Germany has developed clean technologies industry that permeates through their entire economy. As reported in Bloomberg in 2012, the clean tech industry in Germany is set to double in size by 2025, creating new jobs and new opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Germany’s massive effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, while opening the doors to the development of a new industry, is called Energiewende  and is among the world’s largest proposed shifts from carbon-based energy to renewable power. This is not to say that we can follow Germany’s example step by step. That, of course, isn’t desirable.

Instead, what we need to explore are made-in-B.C. solutions. In fact, until recently this is exactly what we were doing in B.C. British Columbia was once a leader in North America, bringing into law the first carbon tax on the continent. We established clear greenhouse gas emission targets and enshrined these into law. Again, this was done not as a cheap political talking point but because real, honest steps to address climate change were grounded in necessity if we wished future generations of British Columbians to prosper.

When we singularly focus on LNG, we fail to value the sectors in B.C. that actually exhibit promise for growth. For example, the Canadian clean tech sector tripled in size from 2012 to 2013. This was a sector that was growing in B.C. and one that we had all the tools necessary to develop further. The educated workforce; the cheap, renewable power; and the creativity and courage required to show leadership were at one point in British Columbia all present.

This industry, along with others that are becoming mainstays of our 21st century economy, requires a focus on developing diversified industries that provide local, well-paying and sustainable employment over the long term. They are also developed with an understanding that it is our responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is why the decision we are making today should not be taken lightly. Hence, the reason why more time needs to be put before this legislation is brought for a vote.

What is different about this path, this path of the LNG pipedream? What is different about this path of the LNG pipedream is that economic development goes hand in hand with reducing emissions. These are not separate initiatives brought together. Instead, they are addressed simultaneously. We can meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets by prioritizing the growth of this clean tech part of our economy.

The foil to this is the legislation we have before us, which is why we need more time to actually examine it. Rather than looking for win-win opportunities, this bill implies a massive increase in our greenhouse gas emissions stemming from LNG.

Government suggests that we’ll rely on other industries and individual British Columbians to take up the slack and reduce their emissions even further to account for the balance. As I said before, the reason why we need so much time to think about this piece of legislation is that while the government is promising a Ferrari in everybody’s backyard, the reality is that all we’re going to get is a bicycle or a scooter if we’re going to actually have our legislated targets being met.


It is, indeed, green, but you tell all the British Columbians that they are not allowed to drive a car because of inability of government to actually work out the numbers in the policy it’s developing. I don’t want to be that person. You can be that person. I want to give British Columbians hope — real hope, not hope based on a pipe dream, an economic windfall that will not happen and at the same time destroy the legislation that has been brought into our chamber here by true leaders in our economy — the former government of this province, not the present government.

I got off track there. I got moved to speak passionately against the heckling from afar, from a member who, I suspect, believes that the world is 6,017 years old, as opposed to the age of the earth actually starting about four billion years ago.

Again, without time to reflect upon this current bill, we will be turning our backs on our Pacific coast action plan partners and on the real climate leadership that we established in 2008. We need to take this very seriously. We need time to reflect upon this. Instead of reducing emissions and working our way towards a regional cap-and-trade framework, we will instead be shifting towards a made-in-Alberta emissions intensity framework, a made-by-Stephen-Harper emissions intensity framework.

Is this what the government wants to tell British Columbians — that our policy is being made in Alberta by Stephen Harper and his cronies in Alberta government? This is not what I would like to tell British Columbians, but the honesty before us is that this is what government should be telling British Columbians. This is not made-in-B.C. policy. This is mirroring Alberta policy to put in place emissions intensity arguments so that you don’t have to do anything about emissions reductions.

The sad fact is that passing the bill without us thinking about the consequences and delaying it before bringing it to vote is that in its current form we would essentially be turning our backs on the progress we’ve made in British Columbia and all the good work that has been done in terms of reducing emissions since 2008. When we consider the trends of our neighbours, this legislation — if we pass it today, as opposed to thinking about it and reconsidering it six months hence — represents a move away from the progress and hope that the Pacific action plan on climate and energy heralded just last year.

When our province came together with California, Washington and Oregon, the latter two states vowed to join California and B.C. in putting a price on carbon. This was a monumental step forward for both action on climate change and for building a 21st-century economy on the west coast of North America. Our carbon tax policies were held up as a shining example of how to take action on climate change without hurting the economy.

Washington and Oregon are already taking steps to follow our lead and California’s lead in putting a price on carbon. Currently they are actively determining precisely how they will do this and whether they will adopt a cap-and-trade framework or a carbon tax. The trouble is that we don’t have these details yet. This is a fast-moving area, and the developments are still unfolding. Why are we rushing to legislate major changes — including the repealing of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap and Trade) Act — that could undermine our partnerships with our friends to the south before we even know how our neighbours are going to proceed?

Surely they’re not looking to British Columbia for leadership now, as they used to. So why don’t we wait and see what leadership they will offer us, rather than throwing it all away from our past legislation?

We have a rare window of opportunity to come together with other west coast jurisdictions and live up to our word and our commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By seizing this opportunity, we will be able to move forward together in a united approach to tackling our emissions. We cannot do this if we rush this legislation through. We may be able to do it if we take more time to consider the ramifications of this bill.

However, there is more to this than simply reducing our carbon emissions. The steps we took in 2008 opened up a new and vast sector of our economy with vast economic opportunities for British Columbian businesses. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is our clean tech sector, which I’ve already discussed. This sector has experienced significant growth in the years following 2008.

When the details emerge as to how Washington and Oregon are going to enact carbon pricing, B.C. will be in a much better position to assess the economic opportunities that our partnerships with those U.S. states present.

Will they go cap-and-trade? We don’t know just yet. We know California has. We know Quebec has joined them. Why are we repealing cap-and-trade legislation in B.C. that was actually put in place so that we might join our partners? Washington and Oregon may go there, and we’ll be left out, yet again on the sidelines of international policy.

Instead of putting our current progress and these potential new opportunities at risk by rushing this legislation through, we could use this extra time to explore opportunities that are presented by collaborative cap-and-trade schemes with our neighbouring states. Our LNG industry — this hypothetical industry, which may or may not transpire — could actually participate in a broader economic jurisdiction in terms of capping emissions and trading emissions, efficiently reducing emissions broadly in the North American context, as opposed to the made-in-Alberta, Harper Tory, emissions-intensity-non-reduction policies that are being brought forward in this legislation.

In a time when international cooperation on climate change is rare, taking the time to properly consider the potential for such a harmonized carbon-pricing zone is well worth it. As our neighbours move forward and look to join us in putting a price on carbon, now is not the time to guarantee massive increases in emissions, to compromise the gains we have made or to abdicate the leadership role we previously had in this area.

It is also not sufficient to claim that this legislation, at some point down the road, will actually find offsets in other jurisdictions — perhaps in China, perhaps in Alberta. Who actually really knows?

There are ten pages of regulatory power in the legislation, which we have not had time and the general public have not had time to go through in detail to determine the consequences of. Yet these ten pages in the legislation essentially grant the government carte blanche to call whatever they want “an offset,” whenever they want “an offset,” whoever they want to do it with “an offset” at any time they want.

It essentially says: “Government makes up the rules as they want to go along.” And we’re trying to think about passing this legislation today without the time to properly reflect upon the consequences on British Columbia’s reputation not only in Canada, not only in North America but globally. Where once we were thought of as leaders, we will surely follow the way our federal government has gone and be viewed as laggards here.

You can pretend that we have these legislated targets on the books. You can pretend that this emissions-intensity legislation is going to somehow meet these targets. The reality is: it, along with the LNG hype, is nothing more than a pipedream.

And the reality is that this government today has lost credibility, through this legislation, on its past, present and future performance on any action to do with climate change mitigation. Because the reality is that you, the government, are trying to pull the wool over British Columbians’ eyes, trying to pull the wool over North Americans’ eyes, trying to pull the wool over the eyes of our friends around the world and claim that we are still leaders, when we are not.

We are moving away from leadership to becoming a laggard, as I have underlined several times, just like our federal government. Shame on the government. Shame on them for bringing this legislation forward.

I certainly hope that they will support this amendment and actually delay it six months, so that we — the opposition, the people of British Columbia, the people in Canada, our friends to the south, our friends elsewhere — will have time to look, reflect and think about this.

And to my friends and members opposite, this will also give you time to go and move past the conservative blog sites that you so love to look at to find the things you love to back the opinions you have and actually go and read a few scientific papers. Go to the peer review literature. Take a look and see the predicament that this world is in because of irresponsible legislation like that which you are putting forward today in our Legislature.

Shame on the government. Shame on the people who voted for this government. This bill needs to be delayed, and I urge you to support this hoist motion today.

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