By Roy L Hales
British Columbia assumed a climate leadership position when it adopted a carbon tax in 2008, but there has been little climate since 2012 and now the province’s carbon emissions are rising. They are expected to reach 72 megatonnes (Mt) by 2020. To get back on track for the province’s 2050 target, a group of forward looking BC Mayors call for strong provincial climate action.
BC Mayors Call For Strong Provincial Climate Action
“The big culprits are really how we get around and how we live. There is no question that building design and the design and layout of cities and towns have an impact,” said Mayor Richard Walton of the District of North Vancouver, Chair of the B.C. Mayor’s Climate Leadership Council.
There have been over 10,000 municipal actions taken over the past four years.
“In many cases there are 10 to 15 initiatives underway in a single community, everything from buildings to fleet maintenance,” said Walton.
Unfortunately, local governments have limited resources and 80% of their climate actions are managed off the side of a staff person’s desk.
“We need resources as well as a policy framework that incentivizes action on the local level, the local government level and for businesses,” explained Mayor Taylor Bachrach of Smithers B.C
BC’s Carbon Tax
The Mayors council suggests that B.C. reinstate “predictable annual increments to the carbon tax of between $6-15 per tonne.”
“A lot of people in Canada think we have outrageous fuel prices, but on a world standard they aren’t that high. The countries that have made significant progress controlling emissions obviously put a higher price on carbon,” said Walton
“Unless you link the cost of carbon to human actions you are not going to see your emissions decrease. They are only going to increase.”
“We’re quite grateful that this government is coming back and doing second climate action process. That is long overdue.”
Fund Clean Transportation Infrastructure
Some of the money from a carbon tax could be used to help “fund significant and sustained public transit and active transportation infrastructure.”
“If we continue to build bridges for cars and trucks as opposed to investing heavily into transit and giving people cheaper and more efficient choices, we are not going to make any significant progress,” said Walton.
The mayors council suggests the provincial government:
- Double the current incentives for electric vehicles.
- lead in the and development and funding of the EV charging network across BC.
- Strongly support municipal and commercial fleets adopting electric or lower carbon fuels by mandating a minimum percentage of fleet vehicles use either electricity, bio-fuels, renewable diesel or renewable hydrogen.
A Huge Opportunity At Stake
“There is a huge opportunity at stake here. British Columbia could not only be a leader in climate action, and reduce emissions, we could also position ourselves for the development of clean technologies. We urge the government to enact policies that encourage investments. That is something we are seeing grow in leaps and bounds even during in a time of relative economic downturn around the world. There are massive investments in clean technologies and renewable energy. British Columbia could be a real hot bed of that kind of activity, but we need the policy framework in place to incentivize that kind of activity,” said Mayor Bachrach.
A combination of local government policy and provincial incentives could spur economic development of home energy retrofits. Homeowners could get better heatings systems, install solar panels.
“There is a tremendous amount of economic activity, but we need the correct policy framework to make that happen,” said Mayor Bacharach.
In their submission, the mayors suggested the province:
- Implement mandatory energy labelling on Part 9 buildings at point of construction, renovation and sale, and benchmarking of larger Part 3 buildings.
- Establish incentives, financing, and retrofit codes to remove existing barriers to improving energy efficiency in existing buildings. Require utilities to provide multi-year energy conservation programs (ECP) supplemented through Provincial government grant programs.
- Set a clear target for the end performance of new buildings (e.g. for new buildings to be ‘net- zero’ by 2030).
- Empower local governments to demonstrate leadership through establishing an ambitious “stretch code” – a building code with energy efficiency standards exceeding the current building code while respecting affordability – that can be adopted by local governments by bylaw or policy.
- Encourage and maintain local government authority to implement community energy systems.
- Foster greater knowledge sharing and development of best practices. The focus of support for local governments should be on deployment of proven solutions based on strong experience
B.C. Mayor’s Climate Leadership Council
Local government leaders from Burns Lake, Castlegar, City of North Vancouver, Dawson Creek, District of North Vancouver, North Cowichan, Smithers, and Vancouver are currently on the B.C. Mayor’s Climate Leadership Council.
Photo Credit: BC Mayors Climate Leadership Council, with provincial government Ministers, in 2015