The year 2018 ends in a rush of environmental virtue-signalling that looks to carry on into the new year and beyond, around the world and here in B.C.
Canada’s December delegation to the 24th annual United Nations climate summit in frigid Poland was pared down to 126 warm bodies, from 161 last year. Thousands of delegates (the Democratic Republic of Congo, noted mostly for corruption, civil war and lawless mining, sent almost 300) came up with rules for measuring greenhouse gases, to take effect in 2020. And that’s about it.
Major oil exporting countries including the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait blocked an effort to include in the official statement a goal of weaning the world off fossil fuels. Negotiations for a global emissions trading system that is supposed to raise hundreds of billions of dollars were put off again, to next year’s meeting in Chile.
Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna declared it a success, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a plan to borrow more money and lend it to struggling Alberta oil and gas producers. The decade-long U.S.-directed scheme to “landlock” Western Canadian petroleum resources has now become so glaringly obvious and damaging that even the CBC was forced to report on it.
While the annual circus of unnecessary air travel was going on, the B.C. NDP government unveiled its glossy vision for a “CleanBC” future, to meet the province’s new greenhouse gas reduction target.
Premier John Horgan insists this is the pathway to a 19-million-tonne reduction in B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, even as the province adds a large-scale liquefied natural gas export facility with its main compression works powered by gas.
How is B.C. doing so far, 10 years after leading Canada into a carbon tax strategy? The latest greenhouse gas figures show B.C. emissions increasing. Indeed, the only time they dipped was in a deep world-wide recession that began in late 2008. This is consistent with UN reports that indicate carbon taxes must be vastly greater than what B.C. and lately the rest of Canada have contemplated, to force people off carbon-based fuels.
CleanBC largely doubles down on familiar strategies that haven’t worked. “Low-carbon fuel” regulations are to be stepped up along with the carbon tax, meaning more grain ethanol or recycled cooking oil added to gasoline and diesel. When you count up emissions from growing, harvesting and processing the crops, displacing a small part of petroleum fuel doesn’t add up to much.
B.C. is going to electrify its natural gas industry, or at least the new parts of it. As someone who used to work in a refinery, I’m wondering how remote drill rigs and sour gas processing plants will operate without burning their own gas.
Oh, and in CleanBC, you’ll be discouraged from burning natural gas to heat your home too. You need a heat pump, and the increasing carbon tax you pay will go into subsidies for this technology.
Long-time B.C. residents may recall getting a cheque in the mail from the Gordon Campbell government, a “climate action rebate” that arrived not long before the 2009 election. This strategy is going national, coincidentally just in time for the 2019 federal election. Trudeau has said the national carbon tax he is imposing will result in most people being money ahead, as Canada tinkers with annual emissions that amount to a few days worth of China’s output.
Happy New Year.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org