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Watchdogs critical of B.C.’s continued support of LNG ‘carbon bomb’

Environmental groups concerned LNG policies outweigh progress in other areas
Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner with the Sierra Club of BC, says B.C. budget could help B.C. make progress on the environment, but he also expressed concern about B.C.’s on-going support for liquified natural gas. (Black Press Media file photo)

As the legislature continues to debate this year’s provincial budget, environmental groups have offered a mixed assessment.

Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner with the Sierra Club of BC, said the budget’s inclusion of $1.3 billion to address emergencies caused by climate change and address its causes has the “potential” to make progress.

“(But) recent trends show that we are already between a rock and a hard place,” Wieting said. “The damages caused by the climate crisis, especially wildfires, are escalating and we are still not on track to meet our ambitious 2030 climate targets.”

He specifically questioned government’s ongoing support for liquefied natural gas projects.

“New LNG export terminals and the associated expansion, enabled by billion-dollar subsidies, are the single biggest threat to B.C.’s climate targets,” Wieting said.

He added that their cumulative effects add up to a “carbon bomb,” which would make it impossible to meet provincial climate goals.

“The benefits of funding for doing the right thing like installing heat pumps and improving public transit could be completely overshadowed by the additional climate pollution from supporting new fossil fuel export projects,” Wieting said.

Questions about the future role of LNG projects in the provincial economy have also shaped debate in the legislature.

“Despite all the red flags, this government continues to champion LNG exports,” Sonia Furstenau, BC Green Party Leader, said during Question Period on March 6, citing Canadian and American voices, including federal energy and natural resources minister Jonathan Wilkinson and US President Joe Biden, critical of LNG.

Energy Minister Josie Osborne responded by saying that B.C. has a new policy that will require LNG facilities to be net zero by 2030 and any other new facility net zero by 2050.

“We’re going to be building a better future with more robust climate targets and putting that emphasis on a clean energy transition, moving away from fossil fuels,” Osborne said.

She also noted that that United States has more than 170 operational LNG facilities, compared to eight projects in Canada.

Furstenau responded by questioning Osborne’s use of the term net zero. “I look forward to the future when historians will look back and recognize that the term ‘net zero’ is a most extraordinary kind of greenwashing,” Furstenau said.

Wieting also laments the lack of new funding for old-growth protection and the goal to double protected areas in B.C. by 2030.

“B.C.’s conservation financing announcements in 2023 were promising but the province must speed up the work with First Nations to enable interim and long-term conservation solutions for irreplaceable old-growth forests before it’s too late,” he said.

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Charlotte Dawe, conservation and policy campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, echoed Wieting’s point.

“The promised prioritization of ecosystem health and biodiversity and the protection of 30 per cent of B.C. by 2030 won’t be free,” she said. “It’s frustrating there’s no new funding to transform land use away from the extraction-focused economic model that harms biodiversity and increases our vulnerability to climate disasters.”

Bright spots include increased incentives for heat pumps for low- and middle-income households and modest budget increases for public transportation, the Wilderness Committee said in its initial assessment of the budget.

Speaking late last month, Premier David Eby said he “fundamentally” disagreed with criticisms from Furstenau, who has accused government of ignoring climate change in the budget, while “dragging” B.C. “back to the 20th century.”

Eby said B.C is leading the fight against climate change, adding that the province has already been seeing the major impacts of climate change other provinces are now just starting to see.

“So we have significant allocations in the budget around things that make communities better, but also help fight climate change…help people use fewer fossil fuels,” he said.

B.C. is also investing in clean electricity, he said.

“It’s a $36 billion investment in BC Hydro to build out our electrical through BC Hydro to build out our electrical grid across the province to help reduce our emissions in the province,” he said.

“Now, I don’t know how you can look at that investment in our electrical grid to reduce our emissions and grow our economy in a sustainable and say anything other than this province is taking the fight against climate change head on.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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