Climate change is the most pressing environmental issue of our age, yet the provincial government keeps adding fuel to the fire by ignoring the carbon footprint of proposed projects like the Kinder Morgan pipeline or various LNG proposals.
This week, Sierra Club BC released a report, written by University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, detailing how British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment (EA) process fails to consider climate change.
Blind Spot: The Failure to Consider Climate Change in British Columbia’s Environmental Assessments recommends a set of urgently-needed policy changes to ensure proposed projects are assessed on the basis of a scientifically valid climate test.
What is a Climate Test?
A “climate test” will test proposed energy projects against their impact on our climate. This will involve consideration of the proposals’ emissions, from extraction to transportation to eventual consumption, and whether there are more climate-friendly alternatives. If a proposal doesn’t meet the test, it doesn’t go ahead.
We need B.C. environmental assessments that consider climate impacts. Tell the provincial government to put industrial projects to the test.
Today, the vast majority of B.C. environmental assessments only consider emissions from constructing, operating and decommissioning a project. Assessments ignore the effects of extracting fossil fuels such as tar sands oil or natural gas (upstream impacts) and they ignore the emissions resulting from burning these fuels outside of B.C. (downstream impacts).
In addition, although the Province has legislated targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, environmental assessments need not fully apply those targets, rendering the legislation little more than empty rhetoric.
Blind Spot makes specific policy recommendations to ensure B.C. can achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and meet the challenge posed by climate change. The recommendations are relevant to other provincial and federal review processes as well. They include automatic triggers, consideration of upstream and downstream impacts, and withholding approval for projects that would breach legislated emissions reduction targets.
To defend ourselves from the impacts of climate change we need policy with teeth. Sierra Club BC calls on all levels of government—and in particular all parties during the current election campaign—to incorporate a climate test into environmental assessments.