Low Carbon Fuels Act positive step to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, more urgency needed

May 11, 2022 | 42-3, Bills, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Video | 0 comments

In the first Bill addressing climate change since the BC NDP got their majority government, the Low Carbon Fuels Act is upgrading the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (2008).

With 37% of the greenhouse gas emissions in British Columbia coming from transportation, our pathway to meeting our greenhouse gas reduction targets must include lower carbon intensity in transportation fuels, including personal vehicles, marine and jet fuel.

This policy framework is complex, establishing a credit program to incent industry to make better choices. Incentives are an important tool, a carrot, but where is the stick? Those are also necessary tools for government to use.

With oil and gas lobbyists meeting with government officials daily, sometimes multiple times a day, it’s no surprise that the BC NDP have leaned much more toward carrots than sticks.

[Transcript]

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill 15, the Low Carbon Fuels Act, in recognition that this is a continuing project in the province to lower the number of emissions that British Columbians are emitting, largely, in this case, through transportation fuels.

I think, before I get too far into my comments, I just wanted to acknowledge that the project has now been undertaken by both of the establishment parties that have been in this building for decades. It started with the Liberals in 2008, with the greenhouse gas…. I had it written down here. It’s not near me. But they started the project in 2008, with the carbon tax and with the greenhouse gas act and now is being continued.

[2:50 p.m.]
I think, as my colleague spoke to earlier, we can argue or quibble or discuss, debate, the pace of change and the need, I think in our society today to recognize that the incrementalism of the past has gotten us to where we are at today, which is in a very dire situation that is materializing in extreme weather events around the world and impacting human health and the health and well-being of the planet.

I think that it’s an important role that we play in the Legislature to ensure that there is significant tension around this topic, that we are doing absolutely everything we can do to mitigate the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate and on the ecosystems that sustain life on this beautiful planet.

This bill is, as has been mentioned, more than 40 pages, and it’s very technical. It’s important that the Members of the Legislative Assembly have the ability to understand and to ask questions and to get to the bottom of what a bill is proposing to be done. We, like our colleagues in the B.C. Liberals, had our brief this morning — 30 minutes to ask questions that we were able to glean in the few hours that we had with the bill. And now here we are this afternoon in debate on the bill.

I can see colleagues around me madly working their way through the bill, trying to understand it and to get to the bottom of it. I think that it’s important to just acknowledge that the quality of the debate and the quality of scrutiny that this bill will have largely determines on our ability to understand it, to get to the bottom of it and to be able to ask good questions. And so this has been a challenging process. I think it needs to be on the record.

So 37 percent of British Columbians’ emissions come from the transportation sector. This bill is around low-carbon fuels and creating a pathway for less carbon-intensive fuels to be created in this province, to be manufactured, produced in this province for British Columbians. We’ve heard a lot, over the last number of weeks and the last number of months, about the impact of importing fossil fuels for the transportation sector — the cost that’s having on British Columbians.

It is a good idea, as we are working to minimize the number of emissions that we’re putting into the atmosphere, that in that process, we’re also reducing the carbon content of the fuels that are in the transportation network. I agree with my colleague that we could be investing much more in public transportation and other forms of transportation, but I also agree that it is an important step for us to be creating strict standards to innovate the fossil fuels that British Columbians are currently burning in their vehicles, whether it be for their personal vehicles or their boats, the marine vehicles, or what the airlines are using for aviation fuel.

So while I believe that we need to be putting a lot more focus on the pace of our response to the climate emergency that we’re facing, this is an important step. It builds on the 2008 iteration of this act, allowing, as I said, different fuels such as biofuels to be developed and brought into this policy, the low-carbon fuel standard in this policy, which is a tool in the toolbox.

I think that it’s also important that we recognize the fact that we do, in this province, invest pretty heavily, either through credits or through support for the fossil fuel companies.

[2:55 p.m.]
I think that there is a credible argument to be made that they could be doing a lot more of this as well, without public money being infused into it, when they are taking record profits, largely from the money that British Columbians are paying at the pump.

While there is this debate that’s going on in this Legislature about what government is going to do about fuel prices for British Columbians — what tangible steps is government going to take? — the official opposition tabled three ideas in this.

The reality of it is that the oil and gas companies…. Not only are they spending an awful lot of time wandering the halls, their lobbyists wandering the halls, making sure that they talk to all of the staff of the various ministries, the ministers, members of the government, they’re raking in record profits. And still making the argument to governments, and governments are still falling for the argument, that “Don’t look at the profits we’re making. In order for to us do this good deed, lower the carbon intensity of the fuels that we’re making. We’re going to need you, government entity” — whichever one it is; in this case, the province of B.C. — “to invest public money to ensure that happens.”

I think what we need, and, you know, what makes this bill more than just an act of greenwashing, is that on the other side of the equation is a government that is enforcing and ensuring. It’s the carrot and stick. You have the carrot. There also needs to be the stick. We also need the enforcement. We need to ensure that we are holding those companies accountable for the impact that they’re having and the commitments that they’re making.

[J. Tegart in the chair.]

As my colleague mentioned earlier, talking about the impact that the oil and gas companies are having in our communities, talking about the impact of oil and gas through fracking, the reality that children born near fracking sites are 25 percent more likely, one in four, to be born at low birth weights, under 5.5 pounds. These are studies that are coming out talking about the impacts of fracking. Increased childhood mortality. Poorer educational outcomes.

I asked this question in question period last week, talking about the disproportionate impact this is having on Indigenous people. The response was that the Blueberry River court case found in favour of the Blueberry River Nation, and so now the provincial government is seized with taking action on it. I’d just say that my hope is that it doesn’t take court cases for there to be concern about the impacts that fracking is having on people in our communities, that it doesn’t take government to be embarrassed in the courts for this to be a concern.

But while we are really stretching CleanBC, which the low carbon fuel standard is an important part of achieving the targets within CleanBC, we see Woodfibre now going to be adding to their emissions and the LNG Canada partnership openly talking about bringing on trains 3 and 4, which are completely not accounted for within CleanBC.

When we asked members of the government about that, they said: “Ah, it’s not likely to happen. Don’t worry about it.” It’s always been on the plan, just brushed aside. “Don’t worry about it.” All too happy to be seen getting the final investment decision. Bending over backwards. Going kilometres further down the road than the B.C. Liberals were prepared to in securing a final investment decision on LNG. We heard that debate in Bill 10. The reality of it is that while British Columbians are working to try to lower their carbon emissions, the government on the other side is also increasing those emissions.

[3:00 p.m.]
I recognize that we don’t stop doing one because the other is happening. We do have to continue to fight climate change on all fronts. We do have to be making decisions and be creating policy that is working towards that end, and it is our role to continue to hold government accountable for the decisions that they’re making, for the outcomes of the policy decisions that are being made.

We’ve spent the last few months in this spring session talking about the stressed, challenged, overworked, overburdened, exhausted public health care system. The Minister of Health raised today in question period the challenging reality of public health care workers in Kamloops.

Talking about British Columbians who are having to pack up anything that they can get their hands on as the fires near their homes. If it’s not fires, it’s the floodwaters rising around their homes — literally an entire town displaced for months and months and months on end. Talking about the impact that that has had on the public health workers at the hospital in Kamloops.

The reality is that if we are not taking our responsibilities to climate action seriously, if we’re not doing everything we can to limit emissions and to be honest about the impact of the policy decisions that are being made, we are going to see more and more negative impacts on our public health care system — one that the minister himself has repeatedly admitted is vulnerable and is at a state of fragility that generations of British Columbians have never witnessed. We’ve never seen it like this.

If we’re going to continue to not take the impacts of this climate emergency seriously, we’re going to see that health care system, that public health care system that has been really put on the brink, be put in an exceptionally challenged situation.

With that, I look forward to listening to the debate and the questions of the minister through the committee stage of this bill. There are others that wish to speak to it, so with that, I’ll take my seat and thank you for this opportunity. HÍSW̱ḴE.

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