In 2008 I had the honour of working with Premier Gordon Campbell, his minister of environment Barry Penner, and the Climate Action Team to outline clear, bold and practicable steps that we as a province could take to address global warming. Despite the other policy issues that the Campbell government and I may have disagreed on, on this file we were making significant progress.
BC Liberal government of today, however, has worked hard to undo all of the progress we made.
I have been in the Legislature for three years now and it is increasingly clear we have given up our climate leadership. Instead, the government has pursued a reckless LNG strategy that will render our legislated greenhouse gas reduction targets meaningless if even a small portion of their hyperbole comes true.
I’ve been a climate scientist for over two decades. I’ve been outspoken on the need for climate action for almost as long, and the reversal in climate leadership in this province was one of the main catalysts that prompted my involvement in politics.
Other provinces are taking big steps while B.C.’s own commitment is being increasingly questioned, proving without a doubt that B.C. has lost the mantle of climate leadership
Both Alberta and Ontario are making big moves on the climate policy front. Ontario is planning to spend $7 billion in four years to aggressively revamp the province’s climate plan. They’re offering huge incentives from electric vehicles to retrofitting buildings, and their plan includes about 80 specific policies designed to reduce the province’s carbon footprint. This is a bold step forward and I commend Ontario for recognizing the opportunity and the responsibility to act.
On the flip side, members of B.C.’s own Climate Leadership Team are now criticizing the government on the lack of action. They produced a report for the government in November 2015 with 32 recommendations to get us back on track towards meeting our emission reduction targets. While the government promised swift action, nothing has been done.
The new Climate Leadership Team did some good work. In its report, it showed that we no longer have the ability to meet our 2020 targets because of policy choices made by the provincial government since 2012. It also highlighted the obvious – to be a climate leader we need strong climate policies.
Climate change is something that is already affecting all British Columbians. From droughts to wildfires to a changing growing season, we will all be touched in significant ways. The more we delay, the higher the cost will be.
Within this challenge is an opportunity. We can be leaders in Canada and in North America in mitigating and adapting to climate change. We should be developing cutting-edge technologies and innovate solutions. We used to be a leader in this field, but the lack of action over the past five years means we are no longer even contributing our part.
So where does that leave us? We know what we need to do. We have the tools and ability to get there. We just seem to be lacking actual climate leadership. It’s time for the government to step up and tell us the plan.
Andrew Weaver is the MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head.