Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.


The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

'Nefarious' counting allows BC coal expansion despite warming risk

If British Columbia were to change its “nefarious” practice and start counting the carbon emissions from coal mined in the province, it would be obvious the province is contributing a grossly unfair share of the planet's greenhouse gases.

That's one conclusion of a soon to be released Dogwood Initiative report on the provincial coal industry, said the group's executive director Will Horter.

“I think this is going to be the next big fight,” said Horter, observing that no other jurisdiction appears to be expanding its coal industry the way B.C. is.

The best scientific estimate is that all of humanity can contribute no more than the equivalent of 233 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide greenhouse gases to the Earth's atmosphere by 2100 if the average global temperature rise is to be kept under two degrees centigrade, he said.

B.C., with 0.0065 percent of the world's population, will contribute six percent of that total, if all of the province's active and proposed coal mines exhaust their supplies, he said. That works out to roughly 1,000 times the province's share, based on population, of allowable emissions.

There are already nine active coal mines in B.C., Horter said, two more with permits, another eight in the environmental assessment process and a further 11 that are yet to enter the process but where the companies with the claims are raising money.

It's “nefarious” the way emissions from B.C. coal are calculated, said Horter. The province—which claims to be working on a 32 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions—only counts the emissions from mining the coal, not from burning it.

He compared the province to a drug cartel that doesn't take responsibility for how the product it provides is used and the damage it does. “B.C.'s just washing it's hands of those larger issues.”

Advocates of coal exports often point out much of the coal produced in B.C. is metallurgical, used for producing steel. But Horter said the greenhouse gas emissions should be counted regardless of whether the coal is used for heat, electricity or making steel.

The provincial government, by the way, is indeed heavily promoting the growth in coal exports. “We can actually see a point when coal exports from B.C. could double and that would mean tremendous rewards for our provincial economy,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Shirley Bond, who is in Asia promoting trade, in a news release today.

The release noted that the coal exports going through both Vancouver and Prince Rupert ports are forecast to hit record volumes in 2010.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus