The B.C. NDP government's first full year in power under John Horgan's leadership coincided with a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the just-released 2020 Climate Change Accountability Report, net carbon dioxide equivalents rose by 2.2 million tonnes in B.C. in 2018, or three percent, from 2017 emissions.
Gross emissions reached 67.9 million tonnes. That's up a whopping 7.3 million tonnes from 2010, which went unremarked in the report.
However, after deducting one million tonnes from offset projects, the net figure was 66.9 million tonnes in 2018. That's up 3.5 million tonnes from the baseline year of 2007.
Greenhouse gas emissions per capita are down eight percent since 2007. But they've risen substantially since 2015.
Heavy-duty vehicle emissions shot up 27 percent from 2007 to 2018. Passenger vehicle emissions were up 17 percent over the same period whereas oil and gas emissions rose eight percent.
Karen Tam Wu, B.C. director of the Pembina Institute, described the document as a "much-needed wakeup call".
“The report offers a frank assessment: our climate plan has a gaping hole that we must fill," she said in a statement. "B.C.’s carbon pollution went up in 2018, the CleanBC plan could leave us 28 to 44 percent short of our 2030 climate target, and emissions may not start to trend downward for a couple more years."
Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman acknowledged to reporters that more work needs to be done.
For example, he said that the province is currently enhancing standards for zero-emission vehicles and developing a plan to reduce emissions in the trucking industry.
"We haven't finished designing what we think is achievable there and having it verified and modelled," Heyman noted. "If we had done that, we'd actually have completed the full plan."
Heyman also admitted that the government has never done any modelling of carbon emissions that goes beyond LNG Canada's phase one portion of its plant in Kitimat.
The second phase, which hasn't been launched yet, would add two liquefaction "trains".
According to the Pembina Institute, adding that second phase would more than double the plant's annual emissions to 8.6 million tonnes by 2030
Under provincial legislation, emissions have to be 40 percent below the 2007 level by 2030.
The Straight asked Heyman why the NDP government won't rule out allowing any more liquefied-natural plants in B.C. in light of the province's carbon budget.
Heyman replied that it will be clear that LNG has to fit within sectoral targets, which haven't been released yet. And he insisted that he and the premier have been "very clear" about that for years.
"We're saying that the oil and gas sector has to fit within our overall legislated climate targets and the plan to meet them," Heyman declared.
He also said that the federal government has changed the way it requires marine emissions to be reported.
And that's caused the baseline in 2007 to fall, resulting in a need to cut more greenhouse gas emissions than previously anticipated.
"The good news we'll end up with a lower overall figure, which is good for B.C. and good for the planet," he said.
B.C.'s carbon tax increased from $35 per tonne to $40 per tonne in 2019.
The Straight also asked Heyman why the government would be encouraging LNG projects in light of a prediction in author Jeremy Rifkin's The Green New Deal that there will be more than $1 trillion in stranded fossil-fuel assets in North America by 2030.
"I've got Jeremy Rifkin's book on my holiday reading list," Heyman replied. "But I'm certainly familiar with a number of the studies he references as well as the concept of diversifying to a cleaner economy. We are doing our best in British Columbia and we are working with the federal government who I think have been good partners on climate programs, to reduce emissions to diversify our economy.
"We have an important clean technology sector in British Columbia that is very inventive," he continued. "We have great opportunities to advance those technologies which is why part of our stronger B.C. economic recovery expenditure was to provide seed funding for centres for innovation and clean energy because we want to be able to deliver for those markets not just in B.C. and Canada but globally where the opportunity exists."
He characterized the government's efforts as using a "dimmer" to turn down carbon emissions rather than hitting a light switch.
"To transition you want to support industries that exist today and make them less carbon intensive," Heyman said. "And you want to promote and support wide diversification into the jobs and economy of the future and that's what CleanBC is all about and that's what we're working toward."