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Members of the public will rally in support of the case on the Vancouver law courts steps prior to the hearing
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 4, 2022
VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – Sierra Club BC, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, is before the B.C. Supreme Court today, suing the B.C. government for failing to report on whether its climate plans will achieve several of the province’s key greenhouse gas emissions targets.
The province’s 2019 Climate Change Accountability Act requires the B.C. government to publish an annual accountability report that describes plans for continuing progress toward B.C.’s emissions targets. Sierra Club BC is arguing that this requires the government to be fully transparent and report without gaps about how far these plans will move B.C. towards reaching each of its emissions targets. If the plans only get us part of the way there, B.C.’s accountability report has to be clear in telling us that.
This information is critical for the public to hold the government accountable to develop climate plans that are adequate to meet all of the emissions targets it has set in law.
Under its climate accountability legislation, B.C. has province-wide emissions targets for 2025, 2030, 2040, and 2050 and targets in 2030 for four sectors of the economy: oil and gas, industry, transportation, and buildings and communities.
B.C.’s 2021 Climate Change Accountability Report failed to explain how far the government’s plans will move the province toward achieving its 2025, 2040 and 2050 targets, as well as the crucial oil and gas sector target in 2030.
The B.C. government is not complying with its own climate accountability legislation at a time when the province’s emissions are too high, and the climate emergency is having an increasingly direct and damaging impact on the lives of people in B.C. Recently, people living in B.C. have been battered by extreme weather events tied to climate change, with 2021 being particularly devastating.
In June 2021, a deadly “heat dome” led to a devastating wildfire that destroyed much of the community of Lytton and caused approximately 600 heat-related deaths across B.C. In November 2021, record-breaking rainfall and flooding destroyed critical infrastructure and threatened thousands of people’s livelihoods in the Fraser Valley.
The Climate Change Accountability Act was meant to improve transparency and accountability, but the government has failed to explain if the province is on track to meet most of its emissions targets. Without this information, the public will not know if B.C. is blowing past its emissions targets until it is too late.
Alan Andrews, Ecojustice climate program director, said:
“B.C. was a leader in setting emissions targets in law, but what’s the use of having these targets if we don’t know if B.C’s plans will actually achieve them?
“The public has the right to expect their government to follow the letter of the laws that they author. And if they don’t, they should expect the public to take them to court.”
Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC senior forest and climate campaigner, said:
“Relentless, escalating climate disasters around the world are reminding us every day about the deadly consequences of missing our emissions targets. We need nothing short of full transparency to understand whether provincial climate plans are fit for the task at hand or not.
A collective last-ditch effort to stabilize our climate requires solid emission reduction pathways for every target and every sector on the path to 2050, as called for in provincial law. Leadership on climate requires acknowledging and tackling any gaps in our plans without further delay.”
- Like Canada, British Columbia has failed to meet emissions targets for over a decade. B.C.’s emissions have increased 15 per cent since 1990 (the first year for which BC has emissions data) and B.C.’s 2020 emissions are only one per cent below 2007 levels, the baseline year chosen by the province for its targets.
- The provincial Climate Change Accountability Act establishes several GHG emissions targets for B.C. out to 2050. The province-wide targets require emissions reductions of at least 16 per cent by 2025, 40 per cent by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040, and 80 per cent by 2050 (below 2007 levels). The oil and gas target requires a 33-38 per cent reduction by 2030 (below 2007 levels).
- Under this law, the B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy is required to publish an annual Climate Change Accountability Report, describing B.C.’s progress on reducing GHG emissions. The Report must include “plans to continue progress towards achieving” each of B.C.’s legislated emissions targets.
- The 2021 Accountability Report fails to explain how far B.C.’s climate plans – CleanBC and the Roadmap to 2030 – will move B.C. towards achieving four of its targets: the 2025, 2040, and 2050 targets and the 2030 target for the oil and gas sector. The Report provides this information for the 2030 target, showing that the province can provide such information.
- Despite the climate emergency, the B.C. government continues to support and subsidize the expansion of large fossil fuel projects – e.g. fracking operations in northeastern B.C. and the construction of the LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat. This project will drastically increase emissions when it starts operations in 2025, the same year B.C. emissions are supposed to be 16 percent lower than in 2007. LNG Canada and other proposed LNG terminals would almost certainly make it impossible to meet B.C.’s 2030, 2040 and 2050 targets.
Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.
Sierra Club BC is an environmental non-profit working to support people stewarding abundant ecosystems and a stable climate, while building resilient, equitable communities. The organization strives to do this by upholding Indigenous rights and title, reconnecting children and youth with nature, supporting grassroots-led climate action, and advocating for old-growth protection.
Eric Wright, Communications Manager | Ecojustice
604-685-5618 ext. 525, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner | Sierra Club BC
email@example.com, (604) 354-5312
Grab a pencil and come and draw coastal wolves with artist Julius Csotonyi! This creative online art lesson is perfect for all ages!
Join us as we tackle government and industry spin to shed a light on the current state of old-growth forests in B.C.
In this session, we’ll be learning to draw the small but mighty hummingbird with scientific illustrator Dr. Julius Csotonyi! Grab a pencil and join the fun!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2022
VICTORIA (Unceded Lekwungen Territories) – B.C. groups are releasing new evidence of ongoing logging and pending cut permits in proposed old growth deferral areas in the province.
Conservation North, Sierra Club BC, Stand.earth, Wilderness Committee, and Wildsight are calling on the province to immediately issue deferral orders for ongoing and planned logging in at-risk old growth forests, as well as to increase and expedite funding to First Nations and forest communities to support the transition from old growth logging.
In the absence of deferrals, cutting permits have recently been submitted for priority deferral areas in the Inland Temperate Rainforest. Wildsight has called on the province to immediately defer logging in 19 pending cutblocks from Downie Timber in the Wood River area north of Golden, which overlap important caribou habitat and old growth deferrals by more than 174 hectares.
“The Cutting Permit in the Wood River is a major test to the province’s public credibility on old growth,” said Eddie Petryshen, Conservation Specialist at Wildsight. “Deferring harvest and implementing legal deferrals here will set an important precedent for old growth protection.”
Upcoming research from Stand.earth Research Group (SRG) has identified multiple old growth deferral areas that were logged between March 2021 and March 2022, totalling an estimated 520 hectares of deferrals. Using satellite data from Planet Labs, this initial research, focused on Northern Vancouver Island and the Central Interior, found 43 deferral areas had been partially or mostly logged, including areas near 100 Mile House logged by West Fraser since November. In total, the study identified about 120 hectares of old growth logged after the province released maps of deferral areas on November 2, 2021.
“While Minister Katrine Conroy told us companies were acting in good faith, West Fraser and others continued to log old growth forests that had been marked for deferral,” said Tegan Hansen, Forest Campaigner at Stand.earth. “We cannot entrust the future of these irreplaceable forests to logging companies that profit from cutting them down.”
The logging identified in the initial research has overwhelmingly occurred in big-treed old growth forests (95%), one of three categories prioritized for logging deferrals by the province’s old growth Technical Advisory Panel (TAP). The majority of old growth forests mapped for deferral are in the B.C. interior, with many high-risk areas being in the Northern Wetbelt, an ecosystem ranked by scientists as Endangered under IUCN Red List criteria.
“We have evidence from satellite imagery that licensees have been clearcutting endangered northern old growth spruce forests in the Interior Wetbelt that were within deferral areas identified by the TAP,” said Michelle Connolly, Director of Conservation North.
On Northern Vancouver Island, Sierra Club BC confirmed ongoing destruction of the last productive big-tree old growth ecosystems remaining in Kwakwaka’wakw territory, using satellite and on-the-ground reconnaissance. Productive old-growth forests in the North Island have been disproportionately logged in past decades. This has resulted in an ecological emergency and requires government ground-truthing to confirm old-growth forests that require immediate deferral.
The Technical Advisory Panel mapped 5 million hectares of unprotected at-risk old-growth forests across B.C. and recommended 2.6 million hectares for immediate initial deferrals. Sierra Club BC found active and recent logging in at-risk old growth areas that should have been identified as candidates for immediate deferrals. Also new gates restricting public access to active logging operations in some of these at-risk old-growth deferral areas are cause for concern.
“Both Western Forest Products and BC Timber Sales are attempting to convince the public that they are forest stewards,” said Mark Worthing, Coastal Projects Lead at Sierra Club BC. “The reality is the opposite. Our findings suggest that unless the B.C. government respects Indigenous governance decisions and takes action now, both companies will continue to take advantage of every opportunity to log ancient cedars older than 500 years like the ones that we found last week.”
On Friday, April 1 Forests Minister Katrine Conroy presented new figures about the amount of old growth that has been recently deferred, and stressed that logging companies are acting in good faith to pause logging while the process unfolds. Conservation North, Sierra Club BC, Stand.earth, Wilderness Committee, and Wildsight welcome any progress to implement logging deferrals, but are calling for both more urgency and transparency around this process. In December the Wilderness Committee mapped approved cutblocks in tens of thousands of hectares of at-risk old-growth earmarked for deferral, and there is very little clarity on which of those areas remain under threat and which are deferred for now.
“The public has a right to know which endangered old growth are getting a temporary reprieve and which ones are getting destroyed,” said Torrance Coste, National Campaign Director for the Wilderness Committee. “The fate of these forests matters to everyone in the province and a true paradigm shift requires far more transparency from the BC NDP government.”
Ziona Eyob, Media Director – Canada, Stand.earth
+1 604-757-7279 (Pacific Time), firstname.lastname@example.org
Torrance Coste, National Campaign Director, Wilderness Committee
Eddie Petryshen, Conservation Specialist, Wildsight
Mark Worthing, Coastal Projects Lead, Sierra Club BC
Michelle Connolly, Conservation North
Featured image is an over 900-year-old tree that was logged in Kwakwaka’wakw territory right before the deferral maps were publicly released (Mya Van Woudenberg/Sierra Club BC).