JUSTINE HUNTER
VICTORIA — B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell has faced many protests in his day. But the one planned for Vancouver on Monday, when the country’s premiers gather to talk about climate change, will be something he’s not used to.
A broad coalition of environmental groups will be doing something they are not accustomed to either: cheering for Mr. Campbell.
“I’ve never been at a rally supporting Gordon Campbell before,” organizer Christopher Hatch of Environmental Defence acknowledged yesterday. Traditionally, Mr. Campbell and his Liberal government have been at odds with environmentalists.
“But Gordon Campbell is taking a leadership role on climate change and it feels great,” Mr. Hatch said. “His government has done a complete 180 – we hope to see other governments do the same thing.”
Along with protesters representing Greenpeace, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and Forest Ethics, Mr. Hatch will be targeting Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, whose government, he said, will undo all of the efforts made by Mr. Campbell and other provincial leaders to curb global warming.
They worry that Alberta’s new climate action plan will not curb massive growth of production in its oil sands, an outstandingly dirty source of energy when measured in greenhouse-gas emissions.
“We think Alberta’s regulations are a dodge. The mechanisms are so weak, they’re really just hot air,” Mr. Hatch said. “So we will meet Premier Stelmach with protests and make it clear, even though the premiers are trying to be diplomatic about their differences, the citizens of Canada will not be held hostage by the tar sands.”
The provincial and territorial leaders are meeting for two days and climate change is at the top of the agenda. But with large gaps between some premiers on how to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, a large part of the agenda has been devoted to a different issue, which is how communities can adapt to the results of global warming.
That’s all well and good, Mr. Hatch said, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to avoid talking about the need for a national climate action plan.
While the climate-change policies and regulations being adopted at the provincial level vary widely, a key difference is highlighted in the plans adopted by B.C. and Alberta.
Alberta’s targets are based on reducing the intensity of carbon emissions for each unit of output, which allows for overall growth in emissions, while B.C. wants industry to reduce total emissions in absolute terms.
The B.C. government has committed to reducing one-third of the province’s current level of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020. That means cutting more than 40 million tonnes of emissions from status quo projections.
That cut is equivalent to the total emissions from the oil sands in Alberta last year and production is set to double, at least, in the next seven years.