By Tracey Saxby
A family physician. A Grand Chief. A marine scientist. A bishop. An agriculture professor. A climate justice and Indigenous rights activist. Three environmental advocates. An author. A transportation planner.
We are merely a few representatives of more than 550 civil society organizations in BC who have come together to plead with the Provincial Government to confront the climate emergency with the urgency that is required to keep residents, future generations, and the planet safe.
The problem with the government’s approach is that it lacks speed and scale. This means we’ll always be in response mode and forever face more frequent and ferocious crises that have deadly and costly consequences (the wildfires this past summer being the most recent example). A reactive approach that responds to extreme weather and relies on adapting to climate-related damage is no longer sufficient. It is setting us up for failure, evidenced by the fact that the Province is not on track to meet its own climate targets.
The United Nations warns that incrementalism (the BC approach) cannot prevent full climate breakdown. The International Energy Agency, which provides policy recommendations and statistics for the global energy sector, has urged governments to agree to take measures for an orderly decline of fossil fuel use. For its part, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been clear that existing and in-construction fossil fuel projects are already more than the climate can handle, meaning that there can be no more fossil fuel expansion.
However, the Province is not heeding these clear and specific recommendations from international agencies. Environment Minister Heyman said recently that the Province’s plan to tackle the climate crisis is “one of the leading plans in North America,” adding that he was “not interested in redesigning our plan.”
That plan, the Province’s CleanBC climate project, inexplicably allows for ongoing fossil fuel expansion. Specifically, the BC Government continues to permit connections for thousands of new homes to fossil natural gas; it supports fracking expansion; and it continues to approve new liquefied fossil natural gas (LNG) terminals—to create a brand-new dirty fossil fuel industry in Canada that aspires to get off the ground in 2025. During a climate emergency.
One of these LNG projects is proposed for the Lower Mainland in Delta. Another is starting construction in Squamish, and would situate floating storage tanks on BC’s third UNESCO-designated biosphere on the waters of Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound. It would also require anchoring LNG tankers in Vancouver’s English Bay.
Unbelievably, there are four more proposed LNG projects that are in various stages of approvals, including one for which the Province is holding a public comment period this month.
Combined, the six proposed LNG projects in BC—which would be fed by fracked fossil natural gas—will produce 30.3 Mt CO2e per year of emissions locally. That is equivalent to burning 34 billion pounds of coal every year, even before the gas is exported, shipped, and burned in another country.
As for the economics, the International Energy Agency’s latest forecast indicates that LNG projects coming online from 2025—which would be the case for the proposed projects in BC—will enter into a market with decreased global demand for gas and is at risk of having a glut in supply, creating a challenging market for sellers.
As a signatory of the Climate Emergency Campaign’s open letter, I implore the Province to get serious about climate action by turning CleanBC into a genuine climate emergency plan. It can do that by implementing these 10 Actions, outlined in the cross-sector supported 2023 Climate Action Progress Report, released this month.
Let’s go, BC.
It’s time to stop expanding fracking and approving LNG terminals. It’s time to ban fossil natural gas in new buildings as nearly 100 US jurisdictions have already done. Let’s stop making the climate crisis worse. Let’s, instead, work together to make major progress through transformative implementation of concrete climate actions.
Tracey Saxby is a marine scientist and the executive director of My Sea to Sky, a people-powered environmental organization that was founded in 2014 to defend, protect, and restore Átl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound. She has been sharing her concerns about the proposed Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC pipeline projects in Átl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound for nearly 10 years.