How B.C. is building a cleaner economy

A number of initiatives will help the province meet its 2050 net-zero commitment

George Heyman is B.C.’s minister of environment and climate change strategy | Province of BC/Flickr

This column was originally published in BIV Magazine's Climate Change issue.

Responding to and preparing for climate change is increasingly driving business investment decisions in British Columbia and globally. 

In only a few short months, we’ve seen remarkable changes in global finance, where large investors have brought environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues to the top of their agenda. In January, BlackRock – the world’s largest asset manager with close to US$9 trillion in its portfolio – announced it would be asking companies to provide plans for how they will compete in a net-zero world.  

The announcement followed major climate commitments from the new U.S. administration and net-zero pledges from governments like China, Japan, South Korea and the European Union, among roughly 130 others. Many of these governments are investing significant economic recovery funds to accelerate this transition. Succeeding in these markets means investing through an ESG lens or risk being frozen out. 

The good news is that by working together to face these challenges, we create new opportunities for a better future – a world with less pollution, stronger communities and good jobs for people across our province. British Columbia is well positioned to take advantage of the move to net zero. Many businesses have led the way forward, spurred in part by the experience of managing carbon pricing, our CleanBC plan and B.C.’s clean electricity grid. 

The B.C. government is building a cleaner economy to meet our own 2050 net-zero commitment, with CleanBC actions taking hold across sectors to reduce emissions and create jobs at the same time. 

Some of our biggest opportunities come from cleaner industry capitalizing on new innovation and technology. Industry in B.C. has already adopted net-zero pledges – companies with net-zero commitments represent nearly 40% of all emissions from large industry in the province. But additional action must be taken to meet our emissions targets and stay competitive in a rapidly expanding global clean economy. 

Our government is working to meet the challenge ahead by building on the strengths of low-carbon industry in B.C. We’re investing carbon tax revenue into projects that reduce emissions and supporting advanced technologies to address tough-to-solve emissions problems through the CleanBC Industry Fund. The program is supporting good jobs across the province in sectors like mining, cement, pulp and paper, and oil and gas. We’ve also boosted the maximum amount available to potential projects and are now offering up to 90% of project funding this year to enhance the program. 

In addition, the latest stream of the fund will also accelerate innovation and job growth in B.C.’s burgeoning clean tech sector. Partnering B.C.’s established industry players with clean tech, a rapidly expanding sector, which now employs thousands of British Columbians and generates billions in revenue, is another example of how we are addressing climate change and creating new economic opportunities.

We understand that economic transition is challenging, and we are engaging with industry to make sure we are listening to businesses as we make changes to build competitiveness. 

Businesses recognize carbon pricing as the most effective and lowest cost way to reduce emissions. But given the magnitude of the net zero challenge, governments need to work directly with industry to help them transition. Moreover, some industries in B.C. remain vulnerable to competitors beyond our borders without a carbon price. The CleanBC Industrial Incentive Program works by reducing costs for low-carbon operators, compared to a world-leading emissions benchmark. 

We’re committed to enhancing both the incentive program and the industry fund further and releasing a detailed roadmap to meet our 2030 emissions targets by the end of the year. 

The roadmap will build on the work we’re doing to help industries power up with clean electricity by working together with BC Hydro and the federal government. This includes offering lower CleanBC industrial electrification rates and putting in place a new fund to reduce the costs of connecting to the electricity grid.

All of these actions build on our advantages in the global clean economy and will help transform our natural resource industries for the better. British Columbia’s history and future are tied to the value we place on our natural environment. And as we continue down this path, more and more global partners are recognizing how important it is to reduce climate-changing emissions to support a better environment and build a stronger economy. 

George Heyman is B.C.’s minister of environment and climate change strategy.

This article was originally published in the April 2021 issue of BIV Magazine. The digital magazine can be read in full here.