With the provincial budget including $902 million for the Clean B.C. initiative the province has taken further steps to deal with climate change, but there’s a long walk ahead, some environmentalists say.
“They have checked another box,” said Alan Andrews, climate change director with Ecojustice. “The big question for us is: Are we going to see legislation? Are we going to see laws that hold ministers to account for achieving targets?”
Andrews said the government is to be applauded for doing what it said it would do — fully funding the climate strategy it announced in December.
The Clean B.C. program is designed to help the province meet the target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030.
Over the next three years, the $902 million committed to the program will fund incentives to steer drivers into cleaner vehicles, fund renovations to improve the efficiency of buildings, offer incentives for homeowners to upgrade windows and heating systems, work with First Nations to switch to cleaner energy sources and provide incentives for industry to clean up.
Andrews said despite the “good start,” there remains a gap as the plan will only get B.C. 75 per cent toward its 2030 emissions target.
Jill Doucette, chief executive of Synergy Enterprises, said the budget showed the government is putting its money where its mouth is.
“That’s a great start,” she said. “What I applaud about the Clean B.C. plan is they looked at climate change through an economic lens, so it’s more a green economy plan than just a climate-action plan,” she said.
Her reservation, however, is that the plan does not detail the role of small business in it all.
“It’s just not clear how small business can play a role, can benefit from or be a part of the solution,” she said. “I’d like to see a more direct link between the small-business economy, which is huge in B.C., and how they could contribute to a cleaner B.C.”
She said the government could move the needle faster on tackling climate change if it revamped its purchasing system to encourage greener solutions.
Andrew Gage, staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, said the budget illustrates there is still a disconnect between tackling climate change and the response of some government ministries.
“Right now, some ministries and some parts of [the budget] are actively working against those goals — for example, with subsidies for liquefied natural gas projects. All government ministries need to work together if B.C. is going to be a true climate leader.”
Other groups believe the government needs to go much further, much faster.
Torrance Coste, Island campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, said he would like to see some recognition of the fact that by 2039, the only thing that is going to matter is climate change.
“It’s amazing to see the investment in children [in the budget], but to see the matching investment not being made in those children’s future is frustrating,” he said. “We want more recognition that there is a need for full-scale transition from fossil fuels and more work on sustainable industries.”
Andrews agreed, noting he advocates for an economic revolution to solve the climate crisis.
“We need the whole economy of B.C. and Canada to transform toward clean technology, and for that to happen we need legislation to give business certainty about the future,” he said.
That certainty, he argued, would allow business to make the right investment decisions for the long term.
“But when we have climate targets that get brushed aside when things get difficult or inconvenient, it does not provide that signal to business and industry.”