OPINION: B.C.’s export sector can make a real difference in reducing global GHGs

September 16, 2020
Greg D'Avignon

As British Columbians, and people around the world, continue the fight to overcome the health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, global economies are looking for recovery solutions that get people back to work, and rebuild a sustainable economy by meeting the needs of a growing world.

B.C.’s Low Carbon Advantage plan, released last month, lays out just such a pathway for B.C.

This province has demonstrated climate leadership in the past but in the next decade, we have the unique opportunity to punch well above our weight and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) around the world as a supplier of choice.

This in turn creates new jobs and drives innovation and personal prosperity here at home. We can do this through the export of B.C.’s lower carbon natural resource sector products.

B.C. produced 67.9 million tonnes of GHGs in 2018, a fraction (0.002 per cent) of global emissions while GHGs continued to grow in the world’s largest economies.

Recent research completed by the province of B.C. and business community, validated by leading Canadian accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny, verified that on average, B.C.’s major commodity exports have about half the GHG intensity of identical goods produced by our competitors.

In fact, globally this B.C. advantage accounts for a difference equal to a third of B.C.’s total emissions. We have a potential to take millions of additional metric tonnes of GHGs out of the world’s atmosphere, simply through the use of goods that include export products from B.C.

Unfortunately, to date, we have not been able to fully capitalize on B.C.’s low carbon advantage.

If B.C. can become the global market’s low carbon supplier of choice for vital commodities, we can fight climate change, and at the same time, create more of those high-paying jobs for British Columbians that have provided us enviable standards of living — jobs that our industrial sector creates.

In turn this enables the creation and adoption of new technologies here in B.C. that lower our own provincial emissions as well.

But we have some barriers to overcome in B.C. first. We need to take meaningful action to address our competitiveness and create a level playing field for our export companies.

We are the only jurisdiction in the world that has a carbon tax without protections for emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries (EITEs). This disadvantage is a serious challenge that even the federal government’s carbon tax has addressed.

We need these protections right here in B.C. too, or we risk investment and its associated emissions being displaced to other countries with a lower or no price on carbon.

We also need regulations that drive performance and tax policies that promote investment, innovation and jobs to ensure we can flourish.

As we face some of the most aggressive GHG targets of any jurisdiction in the world, the capacity for growth — and ability to grow jobs here in B.C. — can only be sustained through a focus on competitiveness and lowering our emissions.

The business community speaks with a common voice when we say that the single most important action the government of B.C. can take in the near-term is to seize this opportunity for economic recovery by endorsing a level playing field for trade-exposed producers, which is what B.C’s Low Carbon Advantage plan calls for.

It’s an opportunity to strengthen CleanBC and efforts on domestic reduction, which industry support but can’t attain without being competitive.

B.C.’s industrial sector is the backbone of our export economy — energy, mining, forestry, manufacturing and transportation — sectors that can see more opportunities ahead in this world. But to maximize them — and the benefits to British Columbians — we need to be able to successfully compete with suppliers around the globe.

This is our moment for B.C. to lead the world on a cleaner path that will have a positive impact for generations to come. This is the moment to seize our low carbon advantage.

Jointly submitted by the Industry’s Leadership Advisory Group to the Low Carbon Advantage Plan: Greg D’Avignon, Business Council of B.C.; Susannah Pierce, LNG Canada; Susan Yurkovich, Council of Forest Industries; Tom Syer, Teck Resources; and Brad Herald, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

As published in the Vancouver Sun.

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