VANCOUVER — An assessment of climate change issues in political platforms reveals clear distinctions between British Columbia’s four major parties.
Prepared by the Pembina Institute, the assessment looks at the following four election issues with implications for climate change and the province’s ability to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets: liquefied natural gas (LNG), oil pipelines, the carbon tax and green jobs.
“When it comes to climate leadership, the four main parties are offering British Columbians commitments that range from major steps back to significant strides forward. The carbon tax, oil pipelines, LNG and green jobs are frequently debated between parties, and it’s these issues that will define the next government’s record on climate change,” says Matt Horne, director of the Pembina Institute’s climate change program.
Looking at the two consistent front-runners in the polls (the B.C. Liberals and B.C. NDP), the most significant steps forward for the climate would be the NDP’s opposition to oil pipeline expansion and its commitment to broaden the carbon tax. In contrast, the Liberals have promised to freeze the carbon tax for five years and have placed five conditions on approval of heavy oil pipelines. What proponents and governments would need to do to satisfy those five conditions – and enable a resulting increase in emissions – is currently unclear.
“The B.C. NDP’s commitment to broaden the carbon tax is an important step in making the carbon tax more fair and effective. This policy would close a significant loophole that currently gives the oil and gas sector a free pass on $100 million of the carbon tax they should be paying,” says Horne. “In promising to freeze the carbon tax rate for five years, the B.C. Liberals are ignoring evidence that the policy is working for British Columbians.”
The Green Party of B.C. is the only party with commitments that would result in major steps forward for the climate in all four areas. They’re also the only party offering a platform that would likely get the province on track to meet its legislated requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, the B.C. Conservatives have supported increased oil pipelines and LNG development, and promised to repeal the carbon tax.
The Pembina Institute’s assessment highlights the challenges posed by LNG if B.C. is going to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020 and 2050. The Conservatives, Liberals and NDP are all in support of significant LNG expansion that will make it impossible for the province to meet its legislated targets.
“LNG will be the central challenge for the next government if it is serious about meetings its targets. The first five years of the province’s climate action plan have shown some encouraging results, but any necessary next steps in lowering emissions will be overwhelmed by the emissions from extracting, processing and liquefying natural gas if LNG development is allowed to significantly expand in B.C.,” says Horne.
A summary of the platform assessment is below and the full assessment is available here. For each issue, party commitments are assessed based on whether they represent a step forward, or a step backward, for a healthy climate. In some cases, ‘no progress’ or ‘unclear’ ratings were issued.
Climate Change Program Director