BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has threatened to bring down the New Democratic government of the province if support for the development of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry is declared in February’s Throne Speech.
Weaver has said that Premier John Horgan’s trade mission to Asia, which includes planned meetings with possible LNG development investors, is in breach of the confidence and supply agreement reached last year to permit the NDP to form a minority government.
“Lest there be any doubt, let me be perfectly clear: NDP government will fall in non confidence if after all that has happened it continues to pursue LNG folly,” Weaver tweeted recently.
The premier’s trade mission involves meetings in China, Japan and Korea with investors backing two proposed LNG projects: LNG Canada in Kitimat, and the much smaller Woodfibre LNG in Squamish. In addition, Horgan is supportive of a third project, Kitimat LNG, that has till now struggled to achieve competitiveness for its potential product.
Market conditions had led to the cancellation of two LNG projects. The NDP, which in opposition prior to forming government last year, had criticized development of the sector. It now believes that rising LNG prices alongside improving global demand could turn things around. A successful LNG industry meanwhile could raise provincial revenues, allowing the government more leeway in spending on its public service expansion priorities.
“I think we have a real opportunity of perhaps landing one or two LNG facilities here in British Columbia,” Horgan said at a natural resources forum in Prince George last week.
However, Weaver said that the province cannot develop LNG and meet its climate targets at the same time, adding: “This is a sword I would die on.”
The establishment of an LNG industry would indeed present a considerable challenge to the province being able to meet its 2050 climate mitigation goals.
Last year, the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank, and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions analyzed the feasibility of meeting legislated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets if the carbon-intensive industry were to proceed.
The modeling results showed that it is, in principle, doable in a pinch so long as the facilities use best practices and technology including using clean electricity instead of natural gas to power their operations. But even with the cleanest of operations, and so long as there are only two LNG projects that go ahead, emissions still remain large enough that much more aggressive action on electrifying transport, heating and industry would need to be carried out than has been envisaged under current policies.
In other words: the lack of an LNG industry would make it easier for the rest of the economy to decarbonize.
There are also a range of environmental and technical challenges such LNG facilities would face in their ability to use clean electricity over fossil fuels.
The Throne Speech, the first opportunity for the Greens to join with the opposition Liberal Party to take down the NDP government, is scheduled for Feb. 13.
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.