Now is the time to renew B.C.’s climate leadership

B.C. Premier Christy Clark announces the Climate Leadership Team on May 12, 2015. Photo: Province of B.C.

Canadians have spoken: with the election of a new government in Ottawa, voters have made it clear they want change. They want to break with the previous government’s track record of inadequate action on issues like climate change. We’re already starting to see a shift in a more positive direction. Catherine McKenna, the newly appointed Minister of Environment and Climate Change, was given an ambitious mandate letter, including policy objectives to take strong action on climate change. Paired with the upcoming international climate negotiations in Paris in early December, this an exciting time for climate action in our country.

This is an especially exciting time for climate action here in British Columbia. We’re awaiting the first draft of the Climate Leadership Plan, which is expected in the coming weeks — just in time for the Paris negotiations. We know that British Columbians want to see a strong plan where we continue to be climate leaders, and can be proud of our accomplishments on the international stage. Our province has been a leader on the climate file and now is the time to renew that vision. British Columbians will be looking to the government to provide that leadership.

What does leadership look like? A new climate change plan that B.C. can be proud of would commit to increasing the carbon tax, strengthening regulatory and financial support for net-zero buildings, building transportation solutions that work and creating resilient, liveable communities. It would also address methane emissions from natural gas development and provide support for clean energy innovation.

Now is the time for B.C. to envision a future where we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The province should move toward an economy that is resilient to fluctuating energy prices and ready for the increasing global demand for low-carbon technologies. Paris will be a prime opportunity to showcase this leadership to the world.

We hope B.C. will also be a key player in the renewed federal conversation, to share its successful experiences with carbon pricing and to push forward bold new ideas. We’re encouraged that the new federal government sees provinces and territories as essential partners on climate change. A promising sign of this partnership is Prime Minister Trudeau’s invitation to the premiers to join him in Paris, and his meeting with the premiers beforehand to discuss climate change strategy in the negotiations. We’re optimistic that the federal and provincial governments will achieve more by working together than they have so far achieved on their own. And we’ll be watching progress on these discussions closely.

We’re already starting to see the potential for positive change. The federal government has made commitments that could help B.C. in implementing a strong and ambitious Climate Leadership Plan. These include a $2 billion trust fund for low-carbon projects, as well as investments in new infrastructure such as public transit. The new federal government has also signalled its intention to support clean technology investment and jobs through new policy measures and direct financial support. For example, $200 million were pledged to support innovation and the use of clean technologies in the forestry, fishing, mining and energy sectors. But financial support will be attached to emission reductions. As Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion recently said “show us the tonnes [of GHG reductions] and we’ll show you the money.”

B.C. needs to make sure that it takes advantage of these opportunities for support and collaboration with a strong plan to reduce emissions.

With Paris on the horizon, there is no better time to re-establish B.C.’s leadership on the national and international stages. This summit won’t be the end of the journey, but it can be the moment where we choose the right path and start making strides toward a better future. Myself and other Pembina staff will be in Paris, reporting back to you. We’re hoping great things will happen at these negotiations, and we want to keep you involved. Sign up for on-the-ground updates on the negotiations. British Columbians should hope that our provincial and federal leaders will seize this opportunity to present a bold vision, show their commitment to tackling climate change and build an economy that will thrive in a low-carbon world.