To read the first part of PICS’ initial assessment of the BC Climate Leadership Plan, please visit here.
Industry and utilities
Industry is responsible for 18 percent of BC’s emissions. This comes from heating commercial and industrial spaces, the combustion of fossil fuels to power production, and industrial processes whose chemical reactions produce carbon dioxide or methane. Key actions in the plan include new gas boiler energy efficiency standards and incentives for adoption of efficient gas equipment.
On the utilities front, the plan would increase the portion of BC Hydro’s power generation portfolio that comes from clean or renewable resources from the current 98 percent to 100 percent.
PICS has no major project dedicated to solving the problem of industrial emissions, but the institute’s 2060 Project, which investigates clean solutions for integrating BC and Canada’s energy systems, notes that the move to 100 percent clean electricity is close to the current situation. What is missing is how to secure ample supplies of dependable, clean, and inexpensive electricity to decarbonise transportation, heating and industry, which will be fundamental to achieving a low-carbon economy.
Transportation is BC’s single largest source of GHG emissions, clocking in at 38 percent. To tackle this, the plan announced a toughening of the province’s existing low-carbon fuel standard. New regulations will permit municipalities to require new buildings install electric vehicle chargers, and to let (but not require) apartments and condominiums do the same. Incentives for purchasers of electric vehicles will be expanded and new incentives rolled out encouraging commercial fleets to switch to natural gas derived from organic waste and wastewater. Buses and ferries will shift from diesel to natural gas, and new rapid transit lines are to be built in Vancouver and Surrey.
From the perspective of PICS’ Transportation Futures project, the fear that motorists might run out of electricity on long journeys is a major barrier to decarbonising this sector, and such charging infrastructure will make a big difference. Support for build-out of rapid transit lines in Vancouver and Surrey is also salutary. The main concern is the scale of ambition. Currently, the sector produces 23 Mt of emissions, but the plan only aims for a reduction of 3 Mt by mid-century. To achieve more substantial decarbonisation, a deeper clean-energy electrification of the sector (either via electric vehicles or electrolysis to produce hydrogen fuel) has to be considered.
Forests and agriculture
The government assumes that the heavy lifting in the plan will be done by the forestry and agriculture sector – some 12 MT annually by 2050, or almost half of the mitigation effort. No other sector comes close to this level of GHG emissions reduction in the plan (for example, the industrial sector is expected to achieve 2 Mt of reduction).
This is to be achieved by enhancing the carbon sequestration potential of areas impacted by wildfires and the mountain pine beetle, improving tree nutrient management, reducing use of fertilizer, as well as making use of smaller, residual tree parts that historically have been burnt as waste. The government hopes to boost the use of long-lived wood products to store carbon for decades or even centuries. New super-strong wood-based materials can be used to displace carbon-intensive steel and cement in building construction.
Research performed by the PICS Forest Carbon Management project suggests that however lofty, the 12 Mt goal may indeed be feasible. But there is little detail in the plan about how this is to happen.
In presenting the plan, the government acknowledged that greater ambition is required and that additional actions will be unveiled, including further efforts around adaptation to the changing climate, following the development of a federal climate strategy.
The Climate Examiner speaks to BC-based Carbon Engineering about the technology, the business and the policies that could make direct air capture, synfuels and carbon sequestration work.