September 29, 2007
Globe and Mail
VANCOUVER — Premier Gordon Campbell is promising a carbon-neutral government – even on matters of travel – as part of a sweeping bid to cut greenhouse gases that also includes legislating market mechanisms to enforce hard caps on emissions.
The measures were among many that the Premier outlined yesterday in a speech to hundreds of delegates attending the annual meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
“As we ask each industry to clean up its act, we must ensure that your provincial government does its part,” Mr. Campbell said.
“We will act this fall to become the first provincial government in Canada to legally require its ministries and Crown agencies to be carbon neutral by 2010 – no ifs, ands or buts.”
The Premier said targets will be enshrined in law. All public-sector organizations will have to account for their greenhouse-gas emissions. The bill will also commit the government, by the end of 2008, to meeting interim targets in 2012 and 2016. Mr. Campbell, now in his second term and planning to run for a third in 2009, will likely not be in office to see through the long-term commitments.
While the broad strokes of the Premier’s plans have long been known, including a commitment to cut greenhouse-gas emissions 33 per cent by 2020, Mr. Campbell added some new twists yesterday, including a commitment that all government travel will be carbon-neutral starting this year.
There will be a crackdown on unnecessary travel, an emphasis on video conferencing, and a move to counteract emissions by investments of $25 per tonne of greenhouse gases produced by government travel into a B.C. carbon trust, which will be launched early in 2008.
The Premier said emissions associated with government travel will be “tracked, calculated, peer reviewed and audited.”
He said the carbon-trust investments will be exclusively linked to projects relevant to the province. “Every penny of that trust that comes from British Columbia taxpayers will have to be reinvested in reducing greenhouse gases right here in British Columbia,” he said.
Offset projects, Mr. Campbell said, will have to provide additional reductions from those of existing activities and be “measurable and verifiable.” He also said British Columbia will legislate a cap-and-trade system next spring to require hard caps on greenhouse-gas emissions from all of B.C.’s heavy emitters.
Meetings are to be held, in coming months, with the forest industry, mining, energy, agriculture and waste sectors in various communities, he said. Mr. Campbell later told reporters his consultations, to date, with industry suggest it will be able to cope with the new status quo.
He said he was not concerned about cost being a deterrent. “That’s a classic argument of the status quo,” he said.
Matt Price, a project manager with Environmental Defence Canada, said the shape of cap-and-trade legislation is crucial, “but the fact that they’re putting it into law is a good first step.”
But NDP environment critic Shane Simpson was skeptical. “What I find most concerning here is the Premier doesn’t seem to be prepared to expand his thinking to look at issues related to tax shifting, and emission taxes and consider those options,” he said.
Other measures announced yesterday included:
$100-million in spending for flood protection across B.C., with $10-million spent each year for the next decade.
Direction to B.C. Hydro to help all residential and commercial customers install smart meters that will show how much money is being spent, per hour, for electrical consumption to encourage energy conservation. The new B.C. Building Code will make such meters mandatory.
“Seriously considering” the development of the Site C dam on the Peace River in northeast B.C. after extensive consultations with the public, native bands and Alberta.