Leaked internal documents and theatrical political spin?
Just in case you weren’t aware, the race for political leadership in B.C. is on. With the May 9 election just three months away, it’s time for the mud-slinging to begin, I guess.
The BC Liberals aren’t wasting any time.
This morning the BC Liberals leaked internal NDP documents related to the official opposition’s climate plan — 90 minutes before NDP leader John Horgan was due to release the plan at a Vancouver press conference.
(If you want to read Environment Minister Mary Polak’s bafflegab on the leaked documents, the Vancouver Sun gave her plenty of room here.)
But for those interested in the meat of the NDP’s actual plan to address climate change, there’s a lot in the documents that indicates the party is promising to take B.C. in a very different climate direction.
And in a rather hilarious twist, the very plan the BC Liberals leaked is now being praised by climate experts because it promises to actually reduce carbon pollution — something the current provincial government has consistently failed to do.
The NDP’s climate plan is also being praised precisely because it takes up the recommendations of Premier Christy Clark’s own Climate Leadership Team — a group of experts the premier hired to come up with a solid climate plan and then completely ignored.
One of the most striking aspects of the climate plan is its promise to unfreeze the provincial carbon tax, thereby addressing one of the most highly criticized climate moves of the B.C. government under Christy Clark.
“We are absolutely encouraged by this plan,” Josha MacNab, B.C. director of the Pembina Institute, told DeSmog Canada.
“It’s refreshing to see a commitment to reduce B.C.’s emissions and it’s encouraging to see the NDP take up the Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations because we know those recommendations offer a blueprint to actually meeting those emission reductions.”
The B.C. NDP plan is anchored in five guiding principles: reducing carbon pollution, increasing the carbon tax, keeping those increases affordable, investing in clean energy and regulating emissions on a sector by sector basis.
BC Liberals Criticized for Reversing Province’s Climate Leader Reputation
“B.C. definitely came out strong in 2008 with a climate plan that was put out under the previous premier Gordon Campbell,” MacNab said.
“That’s where we saw a number of productive policies like the carbon tax. But unfortunately since 2011 and 2012 we haven’t seen any new policies put into place to reduce emissions and we’ve seen a freeze on the carbon tax.”
MacNab said the freeze on the carbon tax is part of the reason for B.C.’s steadily increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s a really important instrument for reducing carbon pollution. And one of the things that’s really important about it is that it continues to go up in a predictable way.”
Clark came under fire throughout 2016 for failing to meaningfully implement any of the several recommendations made to her by the leadership team which included an esteemed panel of climate experts.
In May 2016, seven members of the panel penned a scathing open letter criticizing the Premier for ignoring the team’s climate recommendations and delaying the release of a provincial climate action plan.
When the BC Liberals did eventually release a climate plan — six months overdue — it failed to increase the province’s lagging carbon tax or update the province’s greenhouse gas emissions targets, two major recommendations made by the Climate Leadership Team.
Climate Leadership Team member Tzeporah Berman told DeSmog Canada the BC Liberal’s climate plan was essentially a “fake.”
“It allowed pollution to go up,” Berman said.
“Christy Clark’s plan was bought and paid for by oil and gas,” she said. “It was designed in back rooms with no consultation and ignored the recommendations of her own team.”
The B.C. NDP has vowed to issue rebates for low income British Columbians to offset the increase in the carbon tax. Horgan said about 80 per cent of British Columbians would be eligible for rebates.
“John Horgan and the NDP’s climate plan is strong and it ensures affordability [for British Columbians],” Berman added.
NDP Climate Plan Includes “Concrete Steps” to Emissions Reductions
Berman added she is pleased to see the NDP plan relies on concrete steps towards climate action.
Under Clark the province committed to reducing emissions 80 per cent below 2007 levels by 2050, but failed to outline a pathway to achieving those targets.
Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change estimates B.C.’s emissions will grow 32 per cent between 2013 and 2030.
“It is very encouraging to see a strong commitment to get B.C. back on track to meeting its emissions targets,” MacNab said.
Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University, said he is encouraged by the plan’s focus on “concrete policies.”
“By concrete policies it doesn’t need to be carbon pricing — they’re also talking about emissions reductions in different sectors and smart and flexible regulatory approaches that might achieve that.”
Jaccard added that “compulsory policy” is essential to any meaningful plan.
“It would be things like low carbon fuel standards…B.C.’s electricity policy, or another example would be the California vehicle emissions standards.”
Jaccard said concrete policies like the carbon fuel standard introduced under Premier Gordon Campbell languished under Clark.
“Christy Clark has not tightened the carbon fuel standard. Ever single year from 2011 to 2016 it should have gone up a notch and it never did.”
“The stringency of policies should increase every year and then be mapped onto specific climate targets. So I’m pleased to see the NDP having actual targets that they’re mapping these climate plans on to."
Jeremy Moorhouse, senior analyst at Clean Energy Canada, said in addition to meeting the province’s climate targets, the NDP plan could lead to beneficial jobs growth in the clean energy sector.
“The NDP’s proposed Clean Growth and Climate Action plan targets two critical goals: growing B.C.’s economy and driving down carbon pollution,” he said.
“Our research has found that both these objectives can be met with a well-designed clean growth and climate strategy, one that would add 270,000 jobs to B.C.’s economy by 2025 while cutting carbon pollution.”
Image: B.C. NDP leader John Horgan speaks to the press in Vancovuer in 2014. Photo: BCNDP via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)