Niki Sharma: Delta LNG project reminds us that it's time to get real about the climate and natural gas

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      On September 27, 2019, I picked up my daughter from school and took her to the Global Climate Strike in Vancouver. At six years old, she is just starting to understand climate change. Although, how can she begin to comprehend the scale of the issue?

      I worry about what lies ahead for her and her family and the challenges that they will face from the impacts of climate change. At the least, I wanted her to have a memory of people filling the streets to demand change, demand accountability, and demand action. And I was thankful that 120,000 people showed up to give her that memory.

      Greta Thunberg’s famous question “how dare you?” is not something we can leave for our children to ask. We need to ask it firmly and directly of every CEO barrelling toward the expansion of fossil-fuel industries in Canada.  

      Right now, FortisBC is asking to expand its liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Delta B.C.—a project that will mean an increase in carbon pollution equivalent to 49,000 cars on the road each year. Not to mention the carbon pollution that will be added from leaking, fracking or burning methane on either side of the project.

      Also right now, the International Energy Agency is warning us that the next six months will be pivotal in avoiding the worst outcomes of climate change.

      It is time for us to get real on climate change and liquefied natural gas. LNG is methane—a carbon-based fossil fuel. Any leaks of methane along the production line (from fracking to burning to shipping) means the release of a gas that is up to 86 times worse than carbon dioxide for warming our planet.

      That’s right—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that methane’s global warming potential is many many times worse than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years of release.

      Methane leaks are hard to track and quantify—some studies have shown that we are under-reporting fugitive leaks of methane all along the production line of fracked gas. In 2018, the Pembina Institute noted that B.C. does not have sufficient reporting requirements for methane or adequate ways to detect fugitive leaks of this potent greenhouse gas.  

      This LNG expansion proposal is linked to increased fracking in northern B.C. In 2019, the Blueberry First Nation filed a lawsuit because of the cumulative impacts of industrial development on their lands. The Blueberry First Nation has a territory that is right in the centre of the Montney gas basin—what is called the "sacrifice zone" of gas fracking in B.C. Their treaty lands are littered with over 19,000 oil and gas wells, of which 36 percent are active and many are abandoned—with no company left to pay for the clean-up.

      I have heard people say that with our environmental standards, consuming B.C.’s fossil fuels is better for the planet than in other jurisdictions. All of these arguments are a race to the bottom—and we are positioning ourselves as leaders on the way down.

      For the first time in B.C.’s history, the government has legislated commitments on carbon emissions with targets for 2030, 2040, and 2050, and is laying a path to achieve these targets. The Clean B.C. plan creates an actual pathway to get to over 75 percent of the targeted reductions by 2030, with work underway to find the remaining 25 percent. These are arguably the most ambitious plans for carbon reduction in our province’s history. But, these emission targets are not just ambitious—they are necessary.  

      We need our government to succeed in its commitments to transition our economy and be leaders in supporting our workers to transition into the economies of the future. I am concerned that any new fossil fuel expansion projects will create an insurmountable gap in achieving our climate goals. 

      The fight to secure a better future is at our doorstep. In 2019, the Global Oil and Gas Network  found that globally, 80 percent of the proposed fossil fuel expansion projects are poised to come from only four jurisdictions—B.C., Alberta, Texas and New Mexico.

      Imagine if all us who care about action on climate change made it clear to those making the decisions that creating a path to a brighter future is not optional. We have until July 16 at midnight to submit comments to the Environmental Assessment Office. Tell them that FortisBC’s LNG expansion project is harmful to our communities and the planet.