The BC government released its long awaited Climate Leadership Plan (the Plan) on August 19, 2016. The Plan, which updates the province’s 2008 Climate Action Plan, contains 21 new actions to reduce emissions across the following sectors: (i) natural gas, (ii) transportation, (iii) forestry and agriculture, (iv) communities and built environment, and (v) public sector. The Plan follows the release of the Climate Leadership Team’s report in November 2015. The CLT, which was appointed by the BC government in May 2015 to provide advice for the development of the Plan, made 32 recommendations including, among others, the establishment of a mid-term 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target and a reduction in the provincial sales tax from 7% to 6%, which would be offset by an increase in the carbon tax by $10 per year commencing in July 2018. While the Plan reflects some recommendations made by the CLT and feedback received through public consultation and stakeholder engagement sessions, the Plan bypasses BC’s 2020 target of achieving a reduction in GHG emissions of 33% below 2007 levels and instead charts a path for BC to reach its 2050 target of 80% below 2007 levels. In addition, the BC government has decided to keep the province’s revenue neutral carbon tax at $30 per tonne until the details for a pan-Canadian climate change policy, including the federal government’s approach to carbon pricing, are more clear.

Highlights of the Plan include the following:

Natural Gas

This action area is expected to reduce annual emissions by up to 5 million tonnes by 2050:

  • launching a strategy to reduce upstream methane emissions, including targets for reducing fugitive and vented emissions from extraction and processing infrastructure (built before January 1, 2015) by 45% by 2025;
  • developing regulations to enable carbon capture and storage; and
  • investing in infrastructure to develop upstream electrification of several projects including the Peace Region Electricity Supply Project and North Montney Power Supply Project.

Transportation

This action area is expected to reduce annual emissions by up to 3 million tonnes by 2050:

  • increasing the requirements for BC’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which currently requires a reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 10% by 2020 (relative to 2010) – the LCFS will be increased to 15% by 2030;
  • amending regulations to encourage emission reductions in transportation by allowing utilities to double the total pool of incentives available to convert commercial fleets to natural gas, when the new incentives go towards vehicles using 100% natural gas; and
  • expanding support for zero emission vehicle charging stations in buildings through the Clean Energy Vehicle program;

Forestry & Agriculture

This action area is expected to reduce annual emissions by up to 12 million tonnes by 2050:

  • rehabilitating under-productive forests, recovering more wood fibre, and avoiding emissions from burning slash through the new Forest Carbon Initiative (which will seek to increase the rate of replanting and fiber recovery by 20,000 hectares per year).

Industry & Utilities

This action area is expected to reduce annual emissions by up to 2 million tonnes by 2050:

  • developing new energy efficiency standards for gas-fired boilers; and
  • facilitating projects that will help fuel marine vessels and commercial vehicles with natural gas.

Communities & Built Environment

This action area is expected to reduce annual emissions by up to 2 million tonnes by 2050:

  • working together with local governments to refresh the Climate Action Charter;
  • amending regulations to promote more energy efficient buildings; and
  • creating a waste-to-resource strategy to reduce waste sent to landfill and establishing a food waste prevention target of 30% and increasing organics diverted from landfills to 90%.

Public Sector

This action area is expected to reduce annual emissions by up to 1 million tonnes by 2050:

  • promoting the use of low carbon and renewable materials in public sector buildings; and
  • mandating the creation of 10-year emission reduction and adaptation plans for provincial public sector operations.

The BC government has indicated that the Plan is a living document that will be further updated as needed in order to reflect any policy initiatives within the context of the development of a pan-Canadian climate framework. At the First Ministers’ meeting in March 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau and the Premiers launched a process to develop a national climate change plan which includes the establishment of working groups to study: (i) clean technology, innovation and jobs, (ii) carbon pricing mechanisms, (iii) mitigation opportunities, and (iv) adaptation and climate resilience. The working groups are expected to report back by October 2016, following which a national climate change plan will be negotiated.