BC GHGs dipped 4% in 2020

Pandemic lockdown drove emissions down, but not enough to meet targets

Emissions from air travel among the biggest drops in 2020. | Air Canada

B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 4% in 2020, compared to 2019, and the reasons for the drop are pretty obvious.

When the economy shut down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was expected that GHG emissions for 2020 would show a decline – a temporary one – as people were forced to stay home, resulting in fewer cars on the road and planes in the sky.

B.C.’s greenhouse gas inventory was released earlier this week. There is always a two-year lag in reporting, so numbers for 2021 are not available yet.

According to the GHG inventory, B.C.'s overall emissions in 2020 were 64.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e), down from 67.9 million tonnes of CO2e in 2019.

"In 2020, net emissions in British Columbia totalled 63.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) after considering 1.1 MtCO2e of carbon offsets from forest-management projects," the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy says in a news release.

"This represents a net decrease of 3% (-2.0 MtCO2e) from 2007 levels, the baseline year for B.C.’s official emissions targets, and a net drop of 4% (-2.7 MtCO2e) from 2019 levels."

Any decreases that may have resulted from things like carbon taxes, low carbon fuel standards and electrification of transportation were more than offset by population increases and economic growth since 2007.

B.C.’s emissions reductions targets call for a 16% decrease by 2025, 40% by 2030, 60% by 2040, and 80% by 2050.

Given the current trajectory, it's hard to imagine how the B.C. government can come even close to achieving a 16% decline by 2025.

Predictably, some of the biggest declines in GHGs in 2020 came from sectors like air travel and oil refining. Emissions from domestic air travel declined 43% in 2020 compared to 2019. Emissions from oil refining dropped 19% and emissions from cars, trucks and motorcycles dropped 12%.