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Tell your MLA and BC’s cabinet ministers to cancel Site C

The clock is ticking to stop the Site C megadam. The BC government is about to decide whether to cancel, continue or suspend the project. It’s all hands on deck to ensure they make the right decision.

Following the November 1 release of the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) report, Premier John Horgan and BC’s 22 cabinet ministers will make their decision—as early as November 2.

The BCUC is only looking at the economics of Site C, but Cabinet must consider all implications: BC Hydro debt, cost overruns, First Nations’ rights, loss of food-producing land and wildlife habitat, downstream impacts on water and more.

Please send a letter to Premier Horgan and cabinet ministers with a clear message: cancel Site C!

Want to do more? Host a letter-writing party and make a phone call!

Bring some pens, paper, stamps and cookies, and you’ve got yourself a party.

While Premier Horgan and BC’s cabinet ministers will make the decision, other MLAs can have a lot of influence on those ministers, so it’s worthwhile to contact them. Your MLA represents you, and they should be doing everything they can to stop Site C.

Emails are great, but hand-written letters demonstrate that you care enough to sit down and write it out. A phone call is also a great way to be heard. Do all three!

To phone or send hand-written letters or emails, look up your MLA’s contact information here. If your MLA is also a cabinet minister (they’ll have ‘Hon.’ in front of their name) you could have some special influence as that minister’s constituent. You can contact them at their Ministry office address or their constituency office – in either case, make sure to include where you live so they know you live in their riding.

You can also search cabinet ministers’ names or Ministry names in the government directory.

What should I write?

Tell them why you care about stopping Site C. Here are some tips courtesy of Consumer Protection BC:

  1. Be concise. Keep your letter to one page. You may be more likely to get a response if you can succinctly lay out your concern without rambling on with unnecessary details. If it’s not adding to your argument in some way, leave it out.
  2. Be clear. Make it clear from the beginning why you are writing: to stop Site C.
  3. Be personal. Introduce yourself at the beginning and share why the issue concerns you on a personal level. Allow them to see you as a person and a member of the community they represent.
  4. Include questions. There is always room for questions and it’s a good way to facilitate effective communication. You may also be more likely to get a response.
  5. Be polite. A polite and respectful letter helps get your point across in a calm manner.
  6. Follow up. Whether or not you hear back, it’s always a good idea to follow up. If you haven’t heard from them, you can send a friendly reminder. If they responded to your initial email, make sure you thank them for their response and remind them of the commitments they may have made to you.

Here is a sample letter:

The Honourable Michelle Mungall, M.L.A.

Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Dear Minister Mungall,

I am writing to call for the termination of the Site C dam. British Columbians cannot afford this hugely expensive mistake. I’ve never been to the Peace River, but I live by a river myself and I can’t imagine it being dammed up and ruined for no good reason.

Here’s why I think the dam would have disastrous long term consequences for BC:

  • BC ratepayers are already facing huge Hydro rate increases—before the cost of Site C is added to our bills. We cannot afford higher Hydro rates.
  • Since BC doesn’t need the power, it would be sold at a loss. Cancelling Site C would represent huge cost savings for ratepayers.
  • Wind, solar, geothermal and energy conservation create better long term jobs and offer a much cheaper solution for addressing BC’s future energy needs than Site C.
  • Treaty 8 First Nations have the right to use the Peace River Valley for hunting, fishing and cultural purposes. Site C tramples on these rights.
  • The Peace Valley is prime agricultural land, which we need in BC.
  • The Joint Review Panel concluded that Site C would cause significant irreparable harm to fish and wildlife in the Peace Valley, cutting off a key migration corridor.

What will you do to make sure Site C is stopped? Please respond to let me know.

Thank you,

Tom Jones

Kelowna, BC

 

I wrote a letter. What else can I do?

Lots! Here are some ideas:

  1. Share this online action with your friends: sierraclub.bc.ca/cant-afford-site-c
  2. Visit the office of your MLA or a cabinet minister. Check their office hours and drop in. Bring a personal letter. Smile and get to know the staff. You can even ask to book a sit-down meeting.
  3. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper or a BC-wide paper. Google that paper’s ‘Letters’ section to find out if they have a word limit, then mail or email it in.
  4. Donate. Chip in today or host a house concert and raise funds for Sierra Club BC to keep fighting.
  5. Get creative. Art has a special power to make change. Make a ‘Stop Site C’ mug, paint a mural, or write a song. Do something we haven’t thought of yet.
  6. Download a PDF version of this action guide and print to share with friends!

Feature image: Louis Bockner

New BC government must reform forest policies, say environmentalists, businesses, and union

October 10, 2017

For immediate release:

Conservationists with the Ancient Forest Alliance and Sierra Club BC joined representatives from the Public and Private Workers of Canada (PPWC) forestry union and the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce to shine a spotlight on needed government policies to protect BC’s old-growth forests and ensure a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry, during the 2017 Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) General Assembly in Vancouver.

Left to right: Jens Wieting, Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC; Andrea Inness, Forest Campaigner, Ancient Forest Alliance; Dan Hager, President, Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce; Ken Wu, Executive Director, Ancient Forest Alliance; Arnold Bercov, President, Public and Private Workers of Canada. Photo and media conference by an old-growth redcedar tree in Stanley Park, October 10, 2017.

Vancouver, BC – A coalition of BC environmentalists, unions, and business representatives is taking shape and, with the 2017 Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) General Assembly underway this week in Vancouver, the groups are calling on the new BC NDP government to take action to protect the province’s endangered old-growth forests and ensure a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry.

The Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), along with representatives from the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce and the Public and Private Workers of Canada (PPWC), representing thousands of forestry workers across BC, and Sierra Club BC, held a press conference on Tuesday among the old-growth trees of Stanley Park to discuss the new forest policies they want the BC government to implement.

The 2017 Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) General Assembly being held in Vancouver brings together forestry sector leaders from around the world, including representatives from industry, unions, environmental NGOs, Indigenous groups, and government policy makers.

“With over 800 delegates from 80 countries gathering in Vancouver right now to discuss responsible forest management, it’s a great time to highlight the need for a major policy shift in BC to protect endangered old-growth forests and forestry jobs,” said Ken Wu, Executive Director of the Ancient Forest Alliance. “Third party eco-certification can be an effective way to raise the sustainability of logging companies, but ultimately having strong laws and policies is most important. We see the election of this new government as a very positive development, and it presents the greatest opportunity in decades to create win-win solutions for forestry workers, businesses, First Nations, the environment and the climate.”

The Ancient Forest Alliance is asking for a series of policy changes that can be rolled out over both short- and longer-term timelines. This includes a comprehensive, science-based law to protect old-growth forests, partly modeled after the ecosystem-based management approach used in the Great Bear Rainforest, which set aside 85% of the forests on BC’s north and central coast.

It also includes financial support for sustainable economic development and diversification of First Nations communities, known as “conservation financing,” while supporting First Nations land use plans. While these longer-term solutions are being developed, an interim halt to logging in old-growth “hotspots” – areas of high conservation value – must be implemented to ensure the largest and best stands of remaining old-growth forests are kept intact while a larger plan is developed.

There are also a number of policies that can be readily implemented more quickly. For example, the BC government is currently finishing work on developing a Big Tree Protection Order as a policy option, which if implemented would protect the biggest trees on the coast with buffer zones.

In addition, forest reserves such as many Old-Growth Management Areas that currently exist only on paper should be made legally binding, and the system should be quickly expanded to protect additional endangered old-growth forests. The NDP government should also direct BC Timber Sales (BCTS), the BC government’s logging agency, to discontinue issuance of old-growth cut blocks. Finally, annual funding needs to be directed to establish a park acquisition fund, which would allow the BC government to purchase and protect private lands of high conservation, cultural or recreational value.

“We are excited to work constructively with this new government and hope to start seeing policy changes in the very near future,” said Andrea Inness, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner. “In the province’s most significant old-growth ‘hot spots,’ getting at least a temporary halt to logging is step one, so we’re not in a ‘talk and log’ situation where endangered old-growth forests are being logged while policy negotiations take place, limiting our options for protection.”

The forestry worker unions, PPWC and Unifor, agree there needs to be regulations and incentives in place that ensure a value-added second growth forest industry. Recommended regulations include increasing the province’s log exports tax on second-growth logs and banning or quickly phasing out the export of old-growth log exports. Incentives include providing relief on PST, stumpage fees or property taxes for companies investing in second-growth milling equipment.

“We’re a union that supports sustainable forestry jobs and environmental protection,” said Arnold Bercov, President of the Public and Private Workers of Canada. “The NDP government has expressed concern for jobs as BC mills are continuing to shut their doors, putting people out of work. Port Alberni’s Somass sawmill closed in June and PPWC’s Long Hoh and Ladysmith mills have faced log shortages and temporary closures. The futures of these mills are now in jeopardy. We want to see action from this government to protect our forestry jobs, support wood manufacturing jobs in both First Nations and non-First Nations communities, and to protect endangered old-growth forests.”

In addition to unions, the AFA works closely with the business community, like the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, which has led BC’s business community in rallying behind old-growth protection for economic reasons. The groups are urging the Ministry of Forests to consider the province’s broader business community, which also has a stake in responsible forest policy and conservation.

“The Ministry of Forests’ decision-making process on forests should include the interests of the broader business community,” said Dan Hager, business owner and President of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce. “In many places, such as Port Renfrew, many businesses stand to gain from protecting more old-growth forests. The protection and promotion of the Port Renfrew area’s record-breaking big trees, along with the famed Avatar Grove, has prompted our former logging town to rebrand itself for old-growth forest tourism. We’re now known as the ‘Tall Trees Capital of Canada.’”

“Old-growth forests in many places can have a much greater value standing than as lumber and logs,” said Hager. “Thanks to ‘tall tree’ tourism, we’re seeing jobs, real estate development and property values go up in Port Renfrew. It sets a good example to other communities that there are jobs and enormous economic benefits to protecting old-growth forests.”

“We have learned in the Great Bear Rainforest that solutions for old-growth conservation, communities, and certainty for forestry are possible. We are losing the remaining old-growth on Vancouver Island at a faster pace than primary rainforest gets logged in tropical countries. The climate crisis means that we must keep carbon stored in old-growth forests, which must now be considered a non-renewable resource and will not grow back as we know it. The time for action is now,” said Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner, Sierra Club BC.

More Background Information

Old-growth forests are vital to sustaining unique endangered species, climate stability, tourism, clean water, wild salmon, and the cultures of many First Nations. On BC’s southern coast, satellite photos show that at least 75% of the original, productive old-growth forests have been logged, including well over 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow. Only about 8% of Vancouver Island’s original, productive old-growth forests are protected in parks and Old-Growth Management Areas. Old-growth forests – with trees that can be 2000 years old – are a non-renewable resource under BC’s system of forestry, where second-growth forests are re-logged every 50 to 100 years, never to become old-growth again.

In recent times, the voices for old-growth protection have been quickly expanding, including numerous Chambers of Commerce, mayors and city councils, forestry unions, and conservation groups across BC who have been calling on the provincial government to expand protection for BC’s remaining old-growth forests.

BC’s premier business lobby, the BC Chamber of Commerce, representing 36,000 businesses, passed a resolution in May of 2016 calling on the province to expand protection for BC’s old-growth forests to support the economy, after a series of similar resolutions passed by the Port Renfrew, Sooke, and WestShore Chambers of Commerce. See: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1010

Both the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), representing the mayors, city and town councils, and regional districts across BC, and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC), representing Vancouver Island local governments, passed a resolution last year calling on the province to protect Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth forests by amending the 1994 land use plan. See: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1057

The Private and Public Workers of Canada (PPWC), formerly the Pulp, Paper, and Woodworkers of Canada, representing thousands of sawmill and pulp mill workers across BC, passed a resolution earlier this year calling for an end to old-growth logging on Vancouver Island. See: http://ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1100

The Ahousaht First Nation north of Tofino in Clayoquot Sound also announced early this year that 82% of their territory will be off-limits to commercial logging. They now need provincial legislation and funding to help make their vision a reality. See: https://www.desmog.ca/2017/01/27/first-nation-just-banned-industrial-logging-and-mining-vancouver-island-territory

The Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the BC government to implement a comprehensive science-based plan to protect all of BC’s remaining endangered old-growth forests, and to also ensure a sustainable, value-added second-growth forest industry.

The NDP’s 2017 election platform states that “In partnership with First Nations and communities, we will modernize land-use planning to effectively and sustainably manage BC’s ecosystems, rivers, lakes, watersheds, forests and old growth, while accounting for cumulative effects. We will take an evidence-based scientific approach and use the ecosystem-based management of the Great Bear Rainforest as a model.” (see page 61 of their platform at: https://action.bcndp.ca/page/-/bcndp/docs/BC-NDP-Platform-2017.pdf). If taken literally and seriously, this would almost certainly result in the protection of the remaining endangered old-growth forest on BC’s southern coast and in the BC Interior, where old-growth forests are far scarcer and more endangered than in the Central and Northern Coast (Great Bear Rainforest) where 85% of the forests (including the vast majority of the old-growth) were set aside in protected areas and under the ecosystem-based management.

 

For more information, contact:

Ken Wu, Executive Director, Ancient Forest Alliance: 250-514-9910

Andrea Inness, Campaigner, Ancient Forest Alliance: 778-953-5983

Arnold Bercov, President, Public and Private Workers of Canada: 604-862-3800

Dan Hager, President, Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce: 250-858-7665

Jens Wieting, Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club of BC: 604-354-5312

Site C dam: The wrong choice for BC’s energy future

Imagine you had to make a choice between two options and your decision would impact the entire province’s future for the next one hundred years.

BC could miss out on the solar energy revolution by pursuing Site C.

In the first scenario, major investments have been made in developing low-impact solar, geothermal and wind power technologies in communities across BC. Thousands of people are employed in every region with long term jobs in the renewable energy industry that are located close to where they live. The province is known as a leader worldwide for innovation in these technologies and the positive spinoffs of these booming industries are visible in many corners of the economy.

Efficiency of power use is maximized because electricity is generated in close proximity to the people using it. Investments have been made in building efficiency upgrades. It is the job of BC Hydro to engage the public with energy conservation programs and pursue the cheapest sources of renewable power.

Because of this, people are able to access the electricity they need at an affordable price.

In the second scenario, the government has placed all its eggs in the basket of one enormous energy project. To pay for the project, electricity users have been forced to face alarming rate hikes every year. Many people on low incomes have been evicted or had their electricity turned off because they could not pay their hydro bills. Demand for power in BC has remained flat and so BC Hydro has been forced to sell this expensive surplus power at a huge loss. Massive project cost overruns to the tune of billions are close to forcing the government to bail out the debt-stricken BC Hydro, passing an enormous financial burden onto taxpayers.

By locking the province into this one costly project, the government and BC Hydro have no money left to support innovation in solar, wind or geothermal energy. Private investment in these industries has therefore left the province. Rural communities across the province are reliant on outside sources for their energy and have few economic development opportunities in this regard. Energy jobs continue to require people to travel long distances for work and continue to follow a boom and bust cycle.

The burden of paying for this expensive project and its expensive power make life increasingly unaffordable for British Columbians.

These possibilities are what’s at stake in the BC government’s decision on the Site C dam.

British Columbians cannot afford the cost of choosing Scenario #2.

BC is at a crossroads. Right now, the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) is finally reviewing the cost of Site C. In our submission to the BCUC, we said Site C should be cancelled because this cost is far too onerous.  Now is our opportunity to pursue a different path.

Not only will British Columbians be hurt by this huge financial burden and the opportunity cost of losing out on renewable energy opportunities, the social and environmental costs are devastating. The loss of prime farmland in a time of rising food insecurity, critical wildlife corridors and BC’s relationship with Indigenous peoples are also at stake.

The Site C mega-dam represents planning at its worst. Let’s take this opportunity to cut our losses and make a better plan to enter the 21st century post-carbon economy.

Please join us in calling on BC’s Cabinet ministers to make the right decision and cancel Site C.

Because we will all have to live with the impacts of this decision for generations to come.

Sierra Club BC argues Site C project should be terminated

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

August 31, 2017

VICTORIA—Sierra Club BC, represented by lawyers from Ecojustice, has called for the termination of the Site C dam project in its submission to the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC).

The group argues that the enormous cost of Site C locks B.C. into major financial obligations that hinder its ability to invest in lower impact, lower cost, jobs-intensive renewable energy development that serves communities across the province much better in the long term.

“By continuing to lock B.C. into this outrageously expensive dam that we don’t need, BC Hydro is leaving taxpayers and ratepayers on the hook for huge cost overruns,” said Sierra Club BC’s Peace Valley Campaigner Galen Armstrong. “The material we’ve reviewed shows British Columbians are likely to face alarming increases to hydro rates.”

Sierra Club BC argues that available evidence, viewed in light of the BCUC’s Terms of Reference and B.C.’s Clean Energy Act, leads to a conclusion that Site C should be terminated. The group’s submission suggests:

  • Site C is likely to result in significant excess supply and BC Hydro would be forced to sell this electricity at a loss;
  • Cost estimates have already increased markedly for the project, and major capital costs lock BC Hydro into significant financial obligations;
  • Continuation of Site C will hinder BC Hydro’s ability to invest in alternative, lower-impact renewable energy that could provide community development opportunities across the province; and
  • If this project proceeds, it will put B.C. at odds with its own clean energy objectives as set out in the Clean Energy Act—and should be a major consideration for the BCUC during its review.

“We’ve known for years that Site C is not in the public interest and represents bad long term planning. It will inflict unnecessary pain on household budgets when the alternatives could provide similar or even greater benefits at a far cheaper cost,” said Armstrong.

Sierra Club BC also raised concerns that Site C energy would not reduce B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions and in fact may be used to support greenhouse gas-intensive industries such as mining, oil and LNG.

“This dam represents 1950s thinking when we should be investing in innovative twenty-first century technologies like wind, solar and geothermal energy. These industries create better long-term jobs at a third of the cost of Site C, with the benefits felt in communities across the province. Continued investment in Site C will leave B.C. poorer because we won’t be investing in clean energy innovation for communities.”

“While we’re happy the B.C. government has initiated this review, we worry that the shortened process will still not provide the fulsome review that’s necessary,” said Karen Campbell, Ecojustice lawyer. “If the government truly wants to get it right and act in the best interest of British Columbians, it needs to allow the BCUC to extend the process in order to test evidence and permit parties to ask questions of BC Hydro.

“This review gives the Commission the chance to protect the public from this unnecessary project by fully evaluating how Site C will impact B.C.’s long term energy future. We hope the Commission takes advantage of this escape hatch,” said Campbell.

“Regardless of the final outcome of the BCUC review, this project should be cancelled because of numerous factors, including the threat to prime farmland and the violation of First Nations’ treaty rights,” said Armstrong. “Just last week, the UN’s top anti-racism body strongly condemned Site C. If the current government is serious about its commitment to UNDRIP, the answer is clear: Site C must be cancelled. Cabinet must take these factors into account when it makes its final decision.”

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Resources: Submission

 

Contact:

Galen Armstrong

Peace Valley Campaigner

galen@sierraclub.bc.ca

Sierra Club BC

Cell: 778-679-3191

 

Karen Campbell

Ecojustice lawyer

Kcampbell@ecojustice.ca

604-685-5618 ext. 287

Cell: 604-928-2258

Sierra Club BC supports the ban on the trophy hunting of grizzly bears

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

August 15, 2017

Sierra Club BC released the following statement from campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon in response the government’s ban on the trophy hunting of grizzly bears:

“Sierra Club BC supports the provincial government’s ban on the trophy hunting of grizzly bears and all grizzly bear hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest, where this brings provincial policy in line with Indigenous law.

“Killing bears for sport is wasteful, opposed by an overwhelming large majority of British Columbians, and bad for our economy. These bears are worth more to our economy alive than dead.

“This announcement is also a welcome first step towards a more science-based approach to wildlife and conservation management. We welcome the consultations the government will undertake on a renewed wildlife management strategy.

“Our expectation is that the government will ensure, in implementing the ban, loopholes cannot be exploited by unscrupulous hunters. We expect to see rigorous compliance and enforcement measures put in place.

“Grizzly bear management, like that of many species and ecosystems, requires large landscape-scale conservation and the incorporation of Indigenous approaches.

“Whether in the Peace Valley, the Flathead or the Great Bear, hunting Grizzly bears has an adverse on ecosystems and wildlife dynamics in the landscape. Bears represent more than one animal, they support and are supported by entire ecological systems that need to be defended against human exploitation.”

Contact:

Caitlyn Vernon
Director of Campaigns
Sierra Club BC
C: (250) 896-3500

Sierra Club BC applauds Province’s Kinder Morgan announcement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

August 10, 2017

Sierra Club BC released the following statement from communications director Tim Pearson in response to today’s Kinder Morgan announcement by the Province:

“Sierra Club BC welcomes and applauds today’s announcement.

“The provincial government was elected on a promise to use every tool available to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the threat of a seven-fold increase in bitumen tankers on our coast.

“Today’s announcement is a serious and considered first step to fulfilling that promise.

“Engaging external counsel with the stature of Thomas Berger sends a clear signal that the Province will leave no legal stone unturned. There are complicated legal issues involved and no one is better qualified to provide advice to the Province.

“Berger’s legal career—including the 1973 Calder decision, the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry in the mid-1970s and his influence in enshrining Indigenous rights in Canada’s constitution—is central to the evolution of Indigenous title and rights in Canada.

“Sierra Club BC is optimistic that the Province will be successful in gaining intervenor status in the various active court cases, based upon Berger’s advice.

“Sierra Club BC will continue its work through the Pull Together campaign to raise funds for First Nations court cases. So far, more than $1 million has been raised for both the successful Enbridge cases and those against Kinder Morgan.

“The combination of well-funded First Nations and an intervening provincial government will be a potent one in the courts.

“Today’s announcement also puts Kinder Morgan on notice that it has failed to meet the requirements for consultation with First Nations set out in the conditions of its environmental certificate, issued by the previous government.

“Kinder Morgan cannot commence construction in September without breaking the law, unless all conditions are met.

“We have a new government in part because voters on the pipeline route said no to Kinder Morgan and no to any government that would approve the pipeline.

“A clear majority of British Columbians voted for parties opposed to the pipeline and a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic.

“Sierra Club BC is encouraged that today’s announcement outlined first steps for the provincial government. We look forward to the Province expanding on those steps and signalling its continued commitment to stopping the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tankers project.”

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Contact:

Tim Pearson

Communications Director

Sierra Club BC

250-896-1556

tim@sierraclub.bc.ca

Now’s our chance for smarter environmental and energy reviews

Right now, we’ve got a once-in-a-generation opportunity to raise our voices for stronger environmental protections. The federal government is reviewing key laws and processes including the environmental assessment process and the National Energy Board.

These changes will impact Canada’s environmental and energy decisions for years to come. Please add your voice. Together we can let our MPs know we care about making these changes!

Let’s make sure Canada fixes the National Energy Board

The NEB review of Kinder Morgan was hopelessly biased towards corporate interests and denied many people the chance to speak. Sierra Club BC’s Credibility Crisis report outlined its many flaws, revealing an industry-captured regulator determined to approve the project.

Right now, the NEB review process makes it almost impossible for community voices to be heard. The NEB has far too much power when it comes to reviewing projects like pipelines. It should respect the rights and authority of Indigenous peoples and work for people, not industry.

You can help make sure upcoming changes to the National Energy Board go far enough to restore public trust in the NEB.

Tell your MP: “Keep Canada’s climate promise and fix the NEB” 

Let’s make sure environmental reviews of pipelines, dams and mines are strong and fair

We also have an opportunity to provide input into the federal environmental assessment review to improve protection of Canada’s natural environment.

It’s time for governments to get serious about climate action by incorporating a scientifically rigorous climate test in environmental assessments. A climate test would analyze greenhouse gas emissions related to a project (both upstream and downstream) and assess whether a proposed new energy project fits within national action towards decarbonization, or if instead it will prevent us from hitting climate targets. It asks “does it make climate change worse?” If the answer is yes, the project doesn’t get built.

Environmental assessments should also advance reconciliation and co-governance with Indigenous peoples, respecting Indigenous rights by engaging communities early in the process.

Tell your MP: “I want a next-generation environmental assessment law for Canada” 

Want to do more?

The federal government has also mandated reviews of other environmental laws. Learn how you can advocate for strengthening Canada’s Fisheries Act and the Navigation Protection Act.

This public comment period closes August 28. To learn more about this process, visit the government’s feedback website.

Want to help take Sierra Club BC’s climate action work to the next level? Sign up to volunteer or become a member today.

It doesn’t have to be a carbon offset

Take climate action by supporting Sierra Club BC’s campaign to protect Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich old-growth rainforest! 

Travel—especially by air—burns a lot of carbon dioxide. Have you considered buying carbon credits to offset some of your emissions?

Carbon offsets run the gamut from good to bad. Credible offsets can contribute to climate solutions – if they are combined with concrete steps to reduce emissions. Unfortunately there are many examples of dubious projects, making it important to verify whether standards are met.

As an alternative to buying carbon offsets, consider supporting Sierra Club BC’s work toward lasting protection of Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich endangered old-growth rainforest.

Wood waste from a clear cut. Photo by TJ Watt.

BC’s old-growth rainforests store up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare, one of the highest rates on earth. They’re like a carbon bank, accumulating carbon in soil, trees and organic matter over millennia. Reducing emissions by avoiding logging of this old-growth has immediate benefits for the climate.

Sadly, about half of the carbon stored in these ecosystems gets released in clearcut logging. This is often combined with slash burning, an egregious practice that releases millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases annually and must be phased out.

It can take centuries until the biomass reaches previous levels—time we don’t have.

 

While improving forest management will help in the fight against climate change, the most urgent step is to simply leave carbon-rich and resilient forests alive and standing.

This is why Sierra Club BC is working so hard to protect ancient forests.

By becoming a member of Sierra Club BC, you can help protect British Columbia’s forests and our climate.

Vancouver Island: The last stand for carbon-rich old-growth

In BC, Vancouver Island is Ground Zero for logging of endangered old-growth rainforest. A recent Sierra Club BC analysis showed that destruction of the Island’s original old-growth rainforest is occurring three times faster than primary forest loss in tropical rainforests.

Clear cut logging in East Creek, Vancouver Island. Photo by TJ Watt.

Globally, the loss of primary forests – characterized by ecological processes largely undisturbed by human activity – is threatening species, carbon storage and environmental services. In some countries this is primarily in the form of deforestation; in other countries such as Canada, this is primarily through the replacement of rich ancient forests with even-aged young forest.

Sierra Club BC’s data shows that between 1990 and 2015, Vancouver Island’s primary old-growth forest has declined by thirty per cent.[1] (Three times higher than the ten percent decline for primary forests of tropical countries over the same time period.[2]) Only about ten percent of the biggest trees remain standing. In the last few years the annual old-growth logging rate was 9,000 hectares per year or twenty-five hectares a day.

We have estimated the impact of one year’s worth of old-growth logging on Vancouver Island on our climate. We found old-growth logging on the Island alone essentially eliminated BC’s progress in reducing carbon emissions in the same year, releasing approximately 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and nullifying the province’s progress in reducing annual emissions by the same amount.

Solutions are possible when we work together

The 2016 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements show that solutions are possible. The agreements met science-based conservation levels, strengthened First Nations rights, enabled conservation financing and forest carbon credit projects, and gave forestry companies certainty for logging under stringent standards. The Great Bear Rainforest carbon project documentation showed that the reduced rate of logging is resulting in 600,000 tonnes of carbon emissions reductions annually, benefiting the region’s First Nations with revenue from carbon.

The Great Bear Rainforest lies within a particularly rich region of the province – and North America – for carbon retention. Map source: BC Ministry of Environment.

New protected areas and conservation measures for Vancouver Island must respect First Nations rights and interests, enable a transition to sustainable second-growth forestry and support diverse economic activities such as tourism and reduce carbon emissions. The Ahousaht Nation in Clayoquot Sound is leading the way in demonstrating alternatives to old-growth logging, with their land use vision that includes an end to industrial logging in their territory.

Sierra Club BC mapping shows approximately 1.5 million hectares of remaining old-growth forest on Vancouver IsIand and the South Coast area that are currently unprotected. Within this area, there are 600,000 hectares of relatively productive stands, with significant carbon storagecapacity and a higher likelihood of getting targeted for logging. These forests alone store the equivalent of thirteen times BC’s annual emissions.

Sierra Club BC will work with the new BC government, First Nations and the forestry sector to increase protection of ecosystems with high carbon and species habitat value, in particular temperate rainforests, as a key element in its response to global warming. Old-growth rainforest is more resilient than younger forest, and BC’s ecosystems and species habitat are shifting rapidly in a changing climate. That’s why ecologists consider the remaining old-growth a “non-renewable” resource.

Join us today

We will only get there with your support. We cannot tell you exactly how many tonnes of carbon will remain stored in ancient trees as a result of our work, instead of getting chopped and partly burned in slash piles. But we can assure you that our role has been and will continue to be critical to ensure progress for new protected areas and our climate.

Please consider supporting Sierra Club BC’s work toward lasting protection of Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich endangered old-growth rainforest.

You can do this by becoming a member of Sierra Club BC. The best way to support our work is with a monthly contribution of $8, $15 or $25.

So, are you in?

 

Feature image by Andrew S. Wright.

Footnotes:

[1]  The original extent of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island was 2,600,000 hectares, of which anestimated 1,082,000 hectares were remaining by 1990. By 2015 the remaining old-growth was reduced to 748,000 hectares, adecline of 30 percent over the course of just 25 years.

[2]  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, tropical countries showed an overall decline of 10 percent of their primary forest in the last 25 years (from 1990 to 2015).

The Future is Here for the New Government of British Columbia

Record-breaking wildfires and heat waves are a reminder that we have little time to save nature, phase out fossil fuels and leap to a low-carbon economy, all at the same time.

Abnormally high temperatures in BC, August 3 2017. Image courtesy of TropicalTidbits.com

British Columbia’s unprecedented wildfires are still not under control. August is beginning with a new heat wave and no reprieve from the climate crisis for the new BC government. This ongoing state of emergency is a reminder that our planet is changing rapidly – and that our governments have to act like they mean it, to save our world as we know it.

BC has a unique opportunity and must play a crucial role in the fight against global warming. The province is outstanding due to its large size, spectacular beauty, and vast natural resources which together confer wealth on a relatively small human population. Our use of this abundance, however, has been in many cases short-sighted and unfair.

A new vision is needed. It is justified by the recognition that critical change is now coming at an increasingly visible rate.  We have significantly overstepped the planet’s capacity to provide what we demand, absorb the pollution we produce and heal the wounds we have inflicted on its natural systems. In many parts of the world, lives and business-as-usual are already being disrupted by an increasingly unpredictable climate.

Fortunately, solutions exist that enable us to save our natural systems while offering a sustainable lifestyle. Wind and solar are now beating the price of fossil fuel energy in a growing number of countries. Grid and battery solutions are being developed at a mind-boggling pace.

Renewable energy systems, improved resource and energy efficiency, mass transit, materials recycling and new service models like the sharing economy are contributing more and cleaner jobs than resource extraction sectors. Our province, like so many other parts of the world, needs the leadership necessary to quickly phase in solutions and phase out destructive activities. History shows that ecosystem breakdown makes societal collapse more likely. Now is the time to make the changes we need to make while relatively stable conditions prevail.

A coherent response to the climate crisis requires far reaching steps to reduce climate pollution, moving to low carbon economy and saving nature at the same time without pretending we can take one step at a time. Stopping the pollution from our old economic system is crucial to maintain a healthy environment as a basis for the new economy. Increasing protection of ecosystems on land and in the sea to safeguard environmental services is also tied to maintaining the foundations for long-term prosperity.

BC’s new provincial government made far reaching policy commitments for people and the planet. Sierra Club BC has developed a vision called The Future is Here to support the needed policy changes.  To defend our communities and environment now and into the future, BC needs to show leadership in three key areas – climate action, nature conservation and a low carbon economy.

Climate action

BC must follow climate science, meet existing emissions reduction targets and set new ambitious targets to exceed the Paris Agreement. We must expand and increase the provincial carbon tax and declare the majority of our vast fossil fuel reserves off-limits to extraction, based on the newest carbon budget research. We have sufficient renewable energy sources and low carbon solutions to become carbon neutral before 2050.

Nature conservation

Our environment is healthy enough that we can set aside fifty percent of it in support of nature. We need an expanded network of protected areas with new and existing land use designations that address Aboriginal title and respect cultural values, and give priority to species and carbon sinks while allowing appropriate uses.  We can allow species the means to adapt to the changing climate while protecting clean water, air and soils for our children. BC’s globally rare temperate old-growth rainforests are a particularly spectacular example of resilient ecosystems with outstanding values for species, communities and climate that we can save if we act today.

Low carbon economy

By redirecting resources and political priorities, we can create new, better and safer jobs and build a low carbon economy that maintains our high quality of life with a greatly reduced resource footprint.  We can and must phase out oil and gas activities such as fracking and the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker proposal that destroy our environment and are increasingly uneconomic as international climate agreements are implemented.

Sierra Club BC’s The Future is Here vision includes ten recommendations outlining more detailed steps to address these three areas of action.

No government will be able to implement the scope of change required once the costs of environmental crisis and climate impacts become unmanageable.  As a wealthy industrialized country with a high carbon footprint we have the ability – and the responsibility – to pursue an alternative path. The new BC government has promised to start the change we need, so that we can avoid turmoil such as this year’s terrible wildfires in the future.

Check out The Future is Here and let the new BC government know you expect strong climate leadership.

Petro-Corporations vs. the people of the Skeena

Old Hazelton. Photo by Mark Worthing.

By Mark Worthing, Conservation and Climate Campaigner

This July, I traveled north to visit communities within the mighty Skeena watershed. This was a chance to learn about the petroleum industry’s attempted incursions into Wet’suwet’en, Gitxsan and Tsimshian territories, and the communities that are defending their homes, lands and waters.

The resiliency, power and commitment of this Indigenous-led land defence work leaves me speechless.  And amongst the settler communities who have made homes in the vast drainages of the Skeena and its tributaries, there is an intensely rich understanding of their own relationships with the land.

The stories, solidarity and community-based visioning happening in these places is some of the strongest and most colourful this side of the Rockies.

Yet attempts by international corporations to push extractive industries remain at an all-time high. With recent shifts in government and successes under our belt—like cancellation of the Enbridge pipeline and tankers project, and Petronas’ fracked gas plant—people in the northwest are reviewing their tactics while remaining steadfast in long term land-based sovereignty work.

Hagwilget Canyon. Photo by Mark Worthing.

From my perspective, the general feeling is this: people are tentatively hopeful.

But the work never seems to end, and we must not let our guard down simply because there is a different flavor of political power at the helm.  The proof will be in the pudding. The collective work of cultivating healthy cultures of resistance to industrial extractivism is a lifestyle and not simply a campaign.  And there are many more existing and proposed pipelines that cross those territories without consent.

With multinational fracking and LNG corporations attempting to force projects down the throats of communities and seeking anyone who is willing to sign deals, we will need to stay true to our work in uplifting and affirming the traditional Indigenous governance structures that are inextricably linked to the land.

I admit I had never quite grasped the implications of the Delgamuukw and Tsilhqot’in court cases until I spent time in the Yintah (Territory) of the Unist’ot’en and Luutkudziiwus, different house groups with specific lands within the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Nations respectively. They are each occupying their territories full time according to their own laws. The court cases laid the groundwork for obtaining Title to lands in the eyes of Canadian law, which would return governance and authority to First Nations. This would make stopping unwanted pipelines a whole lot easier.

I also spent time with community members in Dodge Cove on Digby Island, a short boat ride from Prince Rupert. Within an hour of arriving, I heard about Petronas cancelling its controversial fracked gas plant on Lelu Island. The whole town was buzzing with excitement.  That night we raised a glass of champagne to its defeat and to the success of the land defence work of the Lax Kw’alaams and those who helped defend the salmon habitat of Flora Bank.

Unist’ot’en mural. Photo by Mark Worthing.

But for the community of Dodge Cove, the fight isn’t over. They have another battle on their hands: the massive fracked gas plant being proposed by Nexen, owned by Chinese oil giant CNOOC.

The company’s complete disregard for this community was horrific to hear about. The plant would be built less than a kilometre from this historic town, violating international siting standards and putting human safety at risk. They continue to buzz helicopters above people’s homes and conduct test-drilling without consultation or consideration. Don’t believe what you hear from this company. If you see what they are proposing on the ground, your stomach will turn.

Members of the community were grateful for the help Sierra Club BC’s supporters provided by sending letters to the BC Environmental Assessment Office. The EAO received so many submissions—the vast majority of which were opposed to the project—that the review was paused for nearly three months.

But now it’s up and running again, and you can be sure the company is moving full steam ahead.

LNG is not dead in BC, not by a long shot.

 

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Feature image: Suskwa River by Mark Worthing.