At a time when provincial leaders in Ontario and Alberta are scaling back the climate and clean energy plans of their predecessors, and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is vowing to scrap a national carbon tax, B.C. is starting to look like an outlier again on climate change and energy policies.
So the NDP government could use some support for its CleanBC plan, which it is now getting from a handful of B.C. businesses.
Forty B.C. businesses, from ice cream makers to a clean-tech company that developed direct air carbon capture technology, is calling on the provincial government to capitalize on the clean economy.
Working with the Pembina Institute, the 40 companies have formed the new Business Coalition for a Clean Economy, and have sent a letter to Premier John Horgan asking him “to demonstrate bold, sustained leadership by prioritizing investments in the clean future.”
“B.C. is a hub for sustainable innovation, social responsibility, and climate solutions, and businesses are key to B.C.’s success on these fronts,” said Karen Tam Wu, B.C. director for the Pembina Institute.
Members include the clean energy companies Carbon Engineering and Innergex Renewable Energy, but also includes manufacturers, retailers and high-tech companies, including Arc’teryx, Nature’s Path Foods and Hootsuite.
Asked about the letter, Horgan said Thursday June 20 that it sounds like the coalition is asking his government to do what it’s already doing.
“I haven’t seen the letter but I’m ecstatic about that, because that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Horgan said.
“CleanBC, which we announced in December, is leading the country – in fact leading the continent – in addressing the challenges of our time. Rather than declare climate crisis, we’re declaring climate action in British Columbia.”
Julia Balabanowicz, manager of government relations and regulatory affairs for Innergex, agrees that the B.C. government, through its CleanBC plan, is doing what the coalition is asking it to do. So the letter is more of a thumbs-up than a call to do more.
“It’s not so much what they’re not doing,” she said. “It’s really about coming together as a business community to encourage them to keep going and give them a strong body of voices and support to keep doing that.”
Most of the coalition members are B.C. businesses. One member that is national is the Insurance Bureau of Canada. The insurance sector in general is worried that payouts from natural disasters that may be caused, or at least exacerbated, by climate change could make premiums unaffordable for many people.
“Climate change is a clear and present danger that costs Canadians more than $1 billion in insured damages each and every year, due to storms, floods, and wildfires,” said Aaron Sutherland, vice president, Pacific region, for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
“Clearly, much more must be done to mitigate and adapt to the new weather reality that we face.”
The CleanBC plan calls for a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases in just 12 years, and two main pillars are electrification of the economy – including the natural gas industry – and lower carbon standards for both transportation and natural gas heating.
The plan accounts for 75% of the emissions reductions in its targets, but the government still needs to identify where the other 25% will come from.
While there are growth opportunities for some businesses in a clean economy – especially the clean-tech sector – some businesses worry about overreach.
Jock Finlayson and Ken Peacock, economist with the Business Council of B.C., recently warned that achieving such large reductions in B.C. will be difficult because, whereas big reductions can be achieved when power generation switches from something like coal or gas to renewables, B.C.’s power grid is already nearly 100% green, thanks to hydro power. In other words, there’s not a lot of abatement to be had in B.C. power’s sector.
“The hard reality is that, compared with many other jurisdictions, B.C. has few low-cost opportunities available for carbon abatement,” they wrote in May.