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One year in, CleanBC seems to be delivering

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 2/14/2020 2:09:00 PM

British Columbia’s "Building a cleaner, stronger BC: 2019 Climate Change Accountability Report" warns that the province’s greenhouse gas emissions could increase over the next few years before beginning a more precipitous decline as more recent measures begin to work their way into the economy. The 2019 report is the first to report on the impact of the CleanBC plan launched in December 2018.

Despite the forecast of a slight rise in emissions over the short term, the 2019 report actually shows British Columbia a bit ahead of its original forecast, though that is mostly because of updated modelling based on additional data. The government made no secret that the CleanBC plan would get British Columbia only to 75% of its 2030 emissions reduction target. The remainder would have to come from measures not yet identified. With new modelling data, the CleanBC plan is now forecast to bring British Columbia to within 79% of its 2030 target.

Possibly the strongest indicator that British Columbia is on the right path is electric vehicle sales. In the summer of 2019, demand for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in British Columbia outstripped supply, causing frustration among new car buyers. According to the 2019 report, electric vehicles accounted for almost 9% of new car sales in British Columbia. That puts British Columbia already within reach of its 2025 legislated goal of ZEVs accounting for 10% light-duty vehicle sales.

The 2019 report also shows increases in transit ridership, improvements in energy efficiency and emissions intensity, reduced emissions from large industry and lower methane emissions from the natural gas sector.

One red flag is competitive pressure and the risk of carbon leakage. According to the 2019 report, a financial analysis conducted by the province and the Business Council of British Columbia found that British Columbia products could have a carbon intensity advantage over competitors, but many sectors are losing ground due to a number of factors, including resource quality and availability, transportation distances, market access constraints and tax policy. The province and the business council are developing a low-carbon industrial strategy to help address the problem.

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