Pacific NorthWest LNG’s demise is a boon for clean growthB.C. can spur job creation and make climate progress

Oped - Aug. 1, 2017 - By Karen Tam Wu, Stephen Hui

Published in The Hill Times (July 31, 2017).

B.C. must shift support away from fossil fuel development and toward industries that create green jobs. Photo: Kristian Buus, 10:10

British Columbia’s new government has committed to getting the province back on track to meeting its climate targets. Until last week, the Pacific NorthWest (PNW) LNG project, near Prince Rupert, presented a monumental obstacle to making good on that promise.

Indeed, the liquefied natural gas mega-project threatened to be one of the largest carbon polluters in Canada. PNW LNG’s export terminal and associated upstream operations would have made it exceedingly difficult for B.C. to do its fair share in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. 

Malaysia’s Petronas blamed the scuttling of PNW LNG on “prolonged depressed prices and shifts in the energy industry.” LNG prices have tanked amid a global glut, which is expected to persist through the mid-2020s. At the same time, the world is increasingly transitioning to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels. In China, wind power is already cost-competitive with LNG, with solar power costs not far behind.

PNW LNG was always a long shot. The green-field project posed an unacceptable risk to sensitive salmon habitat, and required long shipping distances for export. To secure the project, the previous government doled out substantial subsidies — partial rebates for climate policy compliance costs, ultra low upstream royalties, reduced electricity prices, and more — locking some of them in for over 25 years. B.C. will now no longer be on the hook for these costs.

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Now, with PNW LNG off the table, B.C.’s new government can focus on building a “strong, sustainable, innovative economy that works for everyone.” Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman is tasked with legislating a new provincial emissions target for 2030 of 40% below 2007 levels, and establishing sector-specific targets.

For her part, Minister of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall is mandated to create a “roadmap for the future of B.C. energy that will drive innovation, expand energy-efficiency and conservation programs, generate new energy responsibly and sustainably, and create lasting good jobs across the province.” As well, any LNG development “must protect our air, land and water, including living up to our climate commitments.”

Starting April 1, 2018, we can expect the B.C. carbon tax to increase by $5 per tonne per year to meet the federal schedule for pricing carbon pollution. The province will also broaden the carbon tax to cover fugitive emissions, such as in the oil and gas sector.

With its renewed commitment to climate action, B.C. has an opportunity to be a constructive voice at the federal-provincial-territorial table and once again be a role model for other Canadian jurisdictions.

The Pembina Institute’s Vision for Clean Growth in B.C. outlines how the province can spur job creation and make climate progress. We’re calling on the government to act quickly on five key economic priorities

First, B.C. must build on the clean technology sector’s early successes by providing a supportive policy environment for this sector to reach its potential. Canada’s clean-tech sector generated $13.3 billion in revenue in 2015. 

Second, B.C. must shift support away from fossil fuel development and toward industries that create green jobs. For instance, Canada’s green building sector is home to 300,000 jobs.

Third, B.C. must make it easier and cheaper for British Columbians to make clean choices, and ensure vulnerable populations are able to take advantage of the benefits of a clean growth economy. For example, living in an energy-efficient home can reduce energy bills by up to 50%. 

Fourth, B.C. must put in place a plan to address rising carbon pollution and deal with the effects of climate change on our forests, agriculture, and water systems that we are already seeing. Fifth, B.C. must bring forward a plan for growing sustainable resource jobs in a way that is compatible with a clean growth economy. 

Across B.C., communities have stood up and said LNG development doesn’t fit with their vision for a prosperous economy. They know clean growth is a better recipe for thriving communities and healthy families.

By seizing untapped economic opportunities in all parts of the province, the B.C. government can power up Canada’s clean growth economy and lead the way to the country’s climate targets.

Karen Tam Wu is the acting B.C. director at the Pembina Institute, Canada’s leading clean energy think-tank.

Stephen Hui is the B.C. communications lead at the Pembina Institute. Learn more: www.pembina.org

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This op-ed originally appeared on page 12 of the Hill Times (Ottawa) on July 31, 2017.


Karen Tam Wu

Karen is director of the Pembina Institute's buildings and urban solutions program and is based in Vancouver.

Stephen Hui

Stephen Hui is the communications lead for British Columbia at the Pembina Institute. He lives in Vancouver.


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