One of the greatest challenges facing government and business leaders today is ensuring that our economic development is environmentally sustainable. There is a strong demand for public policies on a host of issues, such as water use, air quality, carbon emissions, environmental assessments, bio-diversity and at-risk species. The Council is committed to providing decision makers with responsible, evidence-based advice on how to promote economic development that meets the needs of environmental stewardship.
Climate Progress in BC
If you read the recently released 2014 Progress Report on Climate Action in BC and some of the related commentary, one would think BC is doing really well on meeting its climate objectives. It’s not surprising to see the government pat itself on the back, but the self-congratulation is overdone in the context of the 2020 33% legislated reduction target that was put in place in 2007. We have only run 2.4 km of a 40 km marathon race. It was clear in 2007 that the government of the day was too ambitious in adopting the 33% goal, and the latest data confirm this.
The LNG Opportunity in BC: Separating Rhetoric from Reality -- Part II
In Part I of this two-part series, we reviewed the main economic critiques of LNG development in British Columbia, concluding that while there are risks and economic uncertainties with respect to LNG in the province, the critics are largely off base with their professed economic concerns. Here in Part II, we address the more analytically challenging environmental issues that have been identified by various commentators who doubt the benefits of LNG.
The LNG Opportunity in BC: Separating Rhetoric from Reality -- Part I
At the same time as China and Russia signed a massive 30 year, $400 billion natural gas trade agreement, the BC government continued its push to establish an LNG industry with a (successful) global LNG conference in Vancouver. The May event came on the heels of Premier Clark’s fifth trip to Asia promoting, in part or full, LNG opportunities in the province.
The China-Russia agreement is emblematic of the changing energy supply landscape; it also speaks to the size of the potential opportunity for jurisdictions like BC considering the contract constitutes only 29% of China’s future import requirement.
Closer to home, critics continue to question whether BC can develop the LNG sector in a responsible and economically sensible manner that will deliver the benefit set expected by government.
In this two part Energy and Environment Bulletin, we assess the validity of arguments suggesting BC is making a mistake in seeking to advance LNG and that the province would be wiser to halt, slow down or significantly change its approach to LNG development.
Is New US Coal Law All About Smoke and Mirrors?
On June 2, 2014, the US EPA issued a proposed rule for reducing carbon dioxide emissions (incorrectly referred to as carbon by some which is a different element ). The goals for reductions are 25 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 30 per cent by 2030. The rule is solely focused on coal-fired generation plants.
Climate Assessment for the United States
The United States has been internally conflicted about climate change, until now, it seems. With the release of the Third National Climate Assessment, the Obama administration has drawn on a wide range of observations about weather, precipitation patterns, water quality and availability, health, infrastructure, agriculture and the oceans to arrive at firm conclusions about humanity’s responsibility for increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The arguments in the assessment report are bolstered by including descriptions of impacts and feedback loops that are specific to each region of the United States. There is nothing like examples to demonstrate concreteness. Overall, the conclusions echo those of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) but with a uniquely American flavour. Despite its 800+ pages, it is written in a way that is accessible to general readers.
Should We "Green" Gross Domestic Product?
What exactly is GDP, or gross domestic product? Where did it come from? Why is it important? Does it measure what we want it to? How might it be improved to provide a more comprehensive measure of human well-being?
A Look at Some Environmental Indicators
Environmental indicators can do several things, including informing us about the state and extent of changes in environmental conditions as a result of the effects of both human activity and natural events. Indicators can also show how effective the actions taken by society have been in avoiding/mitigating environmental impacts, and shed light on what’s been done to restore the capacity of the natural environment to provide the services and materials essential for life and well-being.
BC Ports and Shipping Industry are Global Leaders
The shipping industry is one of the oldest in the world but is not well known -- even though many immigrants arrived by boat to North America. Settlers relied on ships to move supplies to the New World from the Old World. Today, shipping is still a fundamental means of conducting trade and transporting goods from place to place. In Canada, shipping represents the dominant mode of bulk deliveries for both exports and imports to and from markets other than the United States.
Finlayson: With Victoria’s commitment to develop a global LNG industry, should B.C. revise its greenhouse gas reduction targets? (Business in Vancouver)
When the B.C. government decided, in 2007, to make climate change a central focus of its legislative agenda, the world looked different than it does today.
There had been no global recession, no financial crisis, no disheartening spike in unemployment rates. At the same time, the public was becoming more worried about climate change and support seemed to be building for action to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that most scientists believe contribute to global warming.
On the Road to Emissions Reductions:
Environment and Energy Bulletin on BC's Low Carbon Fuel Standard
This edition of our Environment and Energy Bulletin was written by guest author Selina Lee-Andersen, Counsel, Environmental and Aboriginal Law, McCarthy Tétrault LLP.
As a major contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the transportation sector has been identified by policy makers as a sector in which significant emission reductions can be achieved. One of the policy instruments designed to reduce GHG emissions is the low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), which is intended to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels measured on a life-cycle basis.
Submission: Water Sustainability Act for British Columbia Legislative Proposal
The Business Council's comments on the Ministry of Environment’s Water Sustainability Act for British Columbia: Legislative Proposal.
Transportation - The Way We Move Part II
This is part two of a two part Environment and Energy Bulletin that explores the topic of transportation. Part one focused on the context, statistics and some key issues that set the stage for part two, a high level discussion of policy options for managing transportation and related infrastructure issues going forward.
BC Agenda For Shared Prosperity Final Report
September 25, 2013 (Vancouver, BC) – The Business Council of British Columbia and the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce today released the final report of the BC Agenda for Shared Prosperity initiative. For a year, the two organizations have sought expert and community-based answers to the question: “How can BC become a more prosperous province for all British Columbians?”
Finlayson: BC's Carbon Tax Hurting Businesses (Vancouver Sun)
Carbon taxes have been attracting renewed attention. In late July Ottawa-based think-tank Sustainable Prosperity issued a report claiming that B.C.’s carbon tax has triggered a substantial and rapid-fire decline in fossil fuel consumption, leading to a sizable drop in provincial emissions of greenhouse gases.
Then a few days ago The Sun published an opinion piece from a local consulting firm suggesting that the average household in B.C. benefits financially from the carbon tax because of offsetting personal income tax relief measures introduced by the government.
Within North America, B.C. is certainly a pioneer in carbon pricing. Initially set at $10 per ton of emissions in 2008, the carbon tax rose to reach $30/ton in July 2012. The government has now frozen the tax for five years.
To date, no other province or state has instituted the type of broad carbon pricing regime found in B.C.
Transportation -- The Way We Move
This is part one of a two part Environment and Energy Bulletin that will explore the topic of transportation. In part one we focus on the context, statistics and some key issues that set the stage for part two, a discussion of policy options and possible directions for managing transportation and related infrastructure issues going forward.
Letter to Metro Vancouver RE: Air Quality Impact of New and Expanded Coal Shipment Activity in Metro Vancouver
The Business Council of British Columbia addressed written correspondence a proposed recommendations on the potential air quality impacts of new and expanded coal shipment activity in Metro Vancouver being considered by the Board of Metro Vancouver on June 14th, 2013.
Willingness to Pay
The conversation of late in BC has been about energy and resource development with a “hair on fire” commentary from many quarters and a whole tranche of people who think energy and mining are two evil incarnate activities. Energy and the products of mining produce a vast range of goods and services that we take for granted and that have enabled a rising standard of living for billions of people. We have created some amazing technology and the ability, for the most part, to live a life that is quite comfortable (at least in developed countries), primarily because we have been able to harness energy in its various forms to do work and create things.
The challenging reality of global carbon intensity trends
For policy junkies, politicians and citizens interested in global energy trends and climate change issues, there is one resource that should be on everyone’s required reading list – the reports from the International Energy Agency.
In a policy arena that sees the solution side of climate discussions frequently lost in either inaccessible scientific analyses or passionate values debates that substitute beliefs for fact-based dialogue, the IEA provides a welcome array of carefully calibrated data and analysis of energy production and consumption trends. Using relatively easy-to-understand facts on global energy supply and demand, the IEA grounds its climate change analysis through the lens of real carbon output measures, which are then assessed against carbon output trajectories and the policy pathways required for a transition to lower carbon energy systems.
Thinking About Conservation Policy
Some argue that the pace and scale of changes to the landscape to meet humanity's needs and wants is undermining the ability to sustain ourselves. On a global scale this may be true, but in Canada, with the second largest landmass in the world and only 3.85 people/km2, this is not necessarily the case (although one could argue the corollary, which is that this is exactly why we should set aside more land and protect more species, insects, microorganisms and ecosystems, generally).
Coal in the Local Spotlight
The Mayor or Vancouver recently tabled a motion “to prevent the expansion of, or creation of new, coal export infrastructure within the City of Vancouver”. The Mayor of White Rock has done something similar. Vancouver’s Mayor, the Mayor of Burnaby and the Chief of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation are hosting an event in the near future aimed at rallying support to stop the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Then there are all the various groups and campaigns that seem to spring up around election time which seem to say “no” to just about everything and “yes” to things that cost a lot money (but without any ideas about how to pay for them, e.g., the proposal for a new subway along the Broadway Corridor recently advanced by the City of Vancouver and others).