British Columbia’s centre-left government has established a new, permanent climate solutions council that is tasked with advising how the province’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets can be met.
The Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council, which was unveiled last Monday, will report to the environment and climate change strategy minister, George Heyman.
The previous Liberal government had appointed a Climate Leadership Team, with some of the same members of the new body, which recommended a series of policies to achieve the province’s legislated emissions reduction target of 80 percent on 2007 levels by 2050. The centre-right administration came in for criticism from environmental groups and some team members after many of the recommendations, primarily advice that government lift the 2013 freeze on the province’s carbon tax, were shelved in its 2016 Climate Leadership Plan.
An independent modelling analysis of the plan by PICS concluded that it could achieve about a third of the province’s legislated emissions reduction target, and further policy support would be needed to go all the way.
The new body is not intended to craft an entirely new climate change strategy for the nascent government, but rather advise on how to build on the previous climate team’s work, particularly with respect to decarbonizing the major sources of emissions in the province: transport, industry and buildings, the minister said. In addition, the council will offer advice on how to achieve a new mid-term emissions reduction target of 40 percent by 2030, legislation for which is to be introduced next spring.
The council will meet quarterly and on an on-going basis instead of for a single limited period as with the previous Climate Leadership Team, and may meet more often if necessary. It will also look at individual decarbonization topics, rather than all issues all at once, drawing in external experts and even additional members at the minister’s discretion. The council is to publicly report on the government’s emissions mitigation progress after one year and thereafter every two years. The appointments will last two years and are renewable.
The 22-member council is drawn from academia, industry, environmental NGOs, First Nations, labour and municipalities. It is co-chaired by Merran Smith, the director of Clean Energy Canada, a renewables advocacy group, and Marcia Smith, a vice-president with Teck Resources, one of Canada’s largest mining firms.
PICS executive director Sybil Seitzinger, a scientist and who has also been appointed to the council as one of its three academics, said the task laid before the council is considerable.
“All governments are grappling with how to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and prepare for changes in climate we cannot avoid. They are finally adopting relatively ambitious climate targets, but are only now realizing the mammoth scale of policies and regulation needed to achieve these goals,” she said. “I am excited to get to work.”
Energy economist Mark Jaccard helped design BC’s carbon tax, and he still supports it. But he questions just how politically viable a stringent tax—at the level needed to meet climate targets—can really be. So he also continues to explore how other policies that the public find more acceptable could work.