Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets: BC Re-establishes Targets

by Bennett Jones LLP
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[co-author: James Struthers - Articling Student]

On May 7, 2018, the Government of British Columbia introduced Bill 34 to amend the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act. The Bill re-establishes the province’s greenhouse-gas reduction targets, and broadens the regulatory authority of the Minister of Environment to set industry-specific reduction targets, among other amendments.

The Bill was foreshadowed in the BC New Democrat Clean Growth Climate Action plan—where a BC New Democrat Party government would “take measures to reduce carbon pollution… and will set a new legislated 2030 reduction target of 40 per cent below 2007 levels.”

The new targets acknowledge the unlikelihood of the province achieving the 2020 Target (33-percent reduction from 2007 levels), and that active measures must be taken to achieve the 2050 Target (80-percent reduction from 2007 levels). The latest published provincial GHG inventory for 2015 reported B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions as 61.6 million carbon dioxide equivalent tonnes (Mt CO2e), which included 1.7 Mt CO2e in offsets from forest management projects in B.C. (down 4.7 percent from 64.7 Mt CO2e in 2007).

Bill 34 - Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Amendment Act, 2018

If passed, the new legislation proposed in the Bill will:

  • eliminate the Act’s 2020 Target;
  • establish a 2030 target of 40-percent reduction in GHG emissions from 2007 levels), and a 2040 target of 60-percent reduction in GHG emissions from 2007 levels;
  • require the Minister of Environment to publish bi-annual climate-change reports;
  • enable the Minister to set industry-specific targets beyond legislated targets;
  • require public sector organizations to provide climate-change related information to the government; and
  • rename the Act to the Climate Change Accountability Act.

These changes are in line with recommendations 1 and 2 contained in the October 31, 2015, Recommendations to Government by the Climate Leadership Team.

During the first reading of the Bill, Minister of Environment, George Heyman stated that "[w]ith the input of the Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council and engagement with industry and other stakeholders, B.C. is charting a new path to meet our climate goals and targets."

Bennett Jones Remarks

The Council was appointed on October 26, 2017, by the Government of British Columbia to advise the government on matters including carbon pollution reductions policies and implementing the recommendations of the 2015 Climate Leadership Team. The Council includes members from First Nations, environmental organizations, industry, academia, labour and local government.

As a refresher, the October 31, 2015, recommendations of Climate Leadership Team included:

  • expanding coverage of the carbon tax to apply to all GHG sources after five years;
  • measures to reduce fugitive and vented methane emissions;
  • establish the following sectoral GHG reduction goals (below 2015) for 2030:
    • 30 percent for the transportation sector, totaling 6.3 MT of CO2;
    • 30 percent for the industrial sector, totaling 8.4 MT of CO2; and
    • 50 percent for the built environment, totaling 3.4 MT of CO2;
  • developing a low-carbon transportation strategy for transitioning the transportation sector to emit 30 per cent fewer GHGs by 2030; and
  • amending the Clean Energy Act to increase the target for clean energy on the integrated grid from 93 percent to 100 percent by 2025 (except where fossil fuel capacity is required for back-up or reliability).

The Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council expects to report on the provincial government’s progress towards meeting legislated after October 23, 2018.

The content and influence of the Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council to implement the 2015 Climate Leadership Team recommendations may provide clarity to current unanswered questions, including how B.C. plans to engage with industry and other stakeholders, and how the sectoral targets will account for energy intensive trade exposed industries.

GHG emitters and project proponents should participate in any government consultation process, to better understand and prepare for increased GHG reduction targets and broadened regulatory powers. Companies should also continue to monitor global trends towards climate-change mitigation as such changes are likely to challenge static, carbon-intensive industries, while favouring innovation and low to zero emission industries.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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