As far back as October 2012, the B.C. Liberals knew that ambitious plans to develop natural-gas reserves could push greenhouse-gas emissions past the government’s reduction targets for 2020.
The admission comes in the form of a B.C. Ministry of Environment “information note” obtained through a freedom-of-information request filed by NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert.
In a telephone interview, the Vancouver–West End MLA described the internal document as contradicting what Premier Christy Clark and members of the government are saying publicly.
“This confirms that the Liberals have known since October of 2012 that LNG [liquefied natural gas] could completely blow our climate-change emission-reduction targets,” he said. “Knowing that they’ve had this information for this long…I think it’s disturbing.”
The government memo—prepared for then–environment minister Terry Lake—discusses a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that presents a “reality check” on commitments outlined in the 2007 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act. According to the CCPA’s calculations, “fracking and LNG exports will make it virtually impossible for the province to reach its legislated GHG targets.”
Summarizing those findings, the ministry document states: “the CCPA’s range of expected emissions impacts is broadly considered consistent with those expected by the government.”
The October 2012 memo is the second government document released through an FOI request that acknowledges LNG developments could result in B.C. missing its GHG reduction targets. In November 2013, the Globe and Mail reported that documents prepared for environmental minister Mary Polak warned the province’s LNG sector emissions could “be comparable to those from Alberta’s oil sands”, and result in a “doubling of B.C.’s total emissions”.
Chandra Herbert noted that before the May 2013 B.C. election, Clark touted LNG developments as compatible with efforts to combat climate change.
“The government knows that what they are saying just does not match with reality,” he said.
The environment ministry did not make a representative available for comment. An emailed response sent by public affairs officer David Karn states that the province is "within reach" of meeting an interim target to reduce GHG emissions to six percent below 2012 levels. "We have also been clear that there are real challenges in reaching our future targets," the email reads.
In December 2013, the National Energy Board approved applications for four LNG export terminals proposed for B.C. According to the Globe and Mail, that brought the number of new LNG export licences approved for the province to seven, with another four under review.
In a telephone interview, Marc Lee, the CCPA report's author, said that the government’s memo is a “rather nice summary” of his work. He argued that although the B.C. Liberals claim leadership on climate change and boast of a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to reap the benefits of an LNG boom, B.C. can’t have it both ways.
“The government is sort of breaking its own law by pursuing this agenda,” Lee said.