New data mark years of failure to reduce carbon pollution
The provincial government quietly updated its greenhouse gas inventory on the eve of the December holiday season, showing that emissions were higher in 2015 than in 2010 and have risen in four of the last five years.
The provincial inventory shows that in 2015, emissions were 63.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is 1.6 per cent higher than 2014, 4.5 per cent higher than in 2012, and only 2.1 percent lower than the baseline year of 2007. 
B.C.’s latest emissions data mark years of failure to reduce emissions by more than a token amount. Ten years after the previous government legislated the target to reduce emissions by 33 per cent from 2007 levels by 2020 we are essentially in the same place we started.
British Columbia’s emissions are now 10 per cent higher than 1990 levels, in contrast to the European Union, which has reduced its emissions by 23 per cent over the same period.
B.C. has just two years to make up for this lack of progress towards meeting its 2020 target, and to prepare steps to achieve much more dramatic emissions reductions needed to contribute to the goal agreed to at the Paris climate summit to keep global warming below 2 degrees.
What we have seen in B.C. for years is noble rhetoric about the need to confront climate change, but a lack of meaningful action. Avoiding the worst climate impacts in our communities means that the new B.C. government must reject new fossil fuel development such as the Kinder Morgan pipeline and new LNG terminals which would make it impossible to meet the emission reduction targets of the province and other jurisdictions burning imported fossil fuels.
2016 and 2017 were the two hottest years on record with regard to global average temperatures. High temperatures have been accompanied by record-setting wildfires, the continued rapid reduction in sea ice extent and thickness, and high levels of drought in various parts of the world. Sixteen of the seventeen warmest years on record have occurred this century.
British Columbians need to see their new government wake up to the urgency of the situation and take action that will dramatically reduce emissions in the coming years.
Sierra Club BC is calling on the government to:
- Acknowledge that a decade of failure to address the climate crisis means a decisive course change is needed.
- Hold a public inquiry into the impacts of fracking, which each year releases 118,000 tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
- Immediately implement a robust climate test including the full carbon footprint of major industrial projects such as oil pipelines and LNG terminals as part of reforming the environmental assessment process.
- Accelerate increases to the carbon tax.
- Take immediate action to protect old-growth forests that store carbon and end destructive forestry practices such as slash burning, a significant source of emissions.
- Invest heavily in clean energy solutions such as wind, solar, geothermal, small-scale hydro, energy conservation, energy efficiency retrofits, and public transportation.
Instead of sharing emissions data in the form of a detailed report every second year as in the past, the B.C. government has only published an excel file for the second year in a row. More information is needed to inform the public and decision makers about B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions. The excel sheet no longer shows the amount of emissions related to logging and emissions related to slash burning are shown as ‘under review.’
A 2015 Sierra Club BC review of provincial forest emissions data showed that average annual emissions from logging were close to 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and emissions from slash burning more than 8 million tonnes during the 10-year period 2003-2012. Forest emissions are not counted as part of the official provincial emissions. Despite their significance, the currently used excel sheet makes it impossible to track emissions from logging and slash burning.
 While the excel file shows that in 2015, B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions were 63.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the government states on their website that 2015 emissions were 61.6 million tonnes, “including 1.7 Mt CO2e in offsets from forest management projects in B.C.” and that greenhouse gas emissions are down 4.7% from 64.7 million tonnes in 2007, the baseline year.
Feature image by Elizabeth Stilwell