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Green Gord: Unclear on Concept?

Throne speech still fuzzy on global warming plan.

By Andrew MacLeod 13 Feb 2008 |

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau chief in Victoria. You can reach him here.

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Premier Campbell: 'substantive stuff' missing?

Premier Gordon Campbell's position at the head of the climate change fighting parade has been drawing criticism from the province's business leaders, so observers were wondering if the Feb. 12 throne speech would signal a renewed commitment to the file or a retreat.

They could not have been disappointed by the volume. The 42-page speech, delivered by Lt.-Gov. Steven Point, included a laundry list of ongoing projects and a few new promises, much of it focussed on the inter-related issues of climate change, forestry and the environment. There was little, however, that could be construed as a plan.

"I think it is an insufficient and inadequate understanding of climate change," said Green Party leader Jane Sterk. There was an emphasis on individual responsibility, she added. "I didn't hear anything in the throne speech that would say we're going to tackle the large polluters."

The speech mentioned the recently announced transit plan, Sterk said, but the focus remains on the Lower Mainland. It also repeated several promises that will increase the province's carbon emissions, she said. "They're still talking about the ports and the Gateway Project, the Port Mann Bridge," she said. "Pavement solutions that aren't congruent with fighting climate change."

Reuse, recycle

NDP environment critic Shane Simpson said last year's throne speech made 25 promises related to climate change. This year's repeated 16 of them.

Ones that were left out included plans related to sequestering carbon from coal-fired plants, reducing emissions from oil and gas operations, building the hydrogen highway and increasing the number of hybrid cars on B.C.'s roads. "Some of the stuff they didn't talk about was some of the more substantive stuff," said Simpson.

The speech repeated the target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent from 2007 levels by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050. The Climate Action Team is working on ways to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2012 and 2016, it said, and legislation will be in place for that by the end of the year.

Simpson said the team is expected to present its plan two or three weeks after the Feb. 19 budget. It will be interesting to see, therefore, how much money is devoted to climate change. "If it's not in the budget, does that mean it's not funded?" he asked. Will it be another year, he wondered, before money is budgeted to deal with the issue?

The promise to plant more trees, in particular, will be very expensive. "I'll bet it's a billion dollar a year project," he said. "I'm going to wait and see what actually comes in the budget to support this. . . . If it's in the budget and it has money attached, then we believe it and that it's substantive."

Carbon tax coming?

David Suzuki Foundation climate change specialist Ian Bruce said he'll be watching the budget for movement on a carbon tax, though it was not mentioned in the throne speech. "I think there's some very strong language regarding using the power of the market to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and not waiting for other jurisdictions," he said. "I see that as a very positive step and possibly foreshadowing to next week's budget."

The government has made some bold announcements about fighting climate change, he said, but still needs a plan. "Global warming is a big problem and it requires big solutions," he said. A carbon tax would address the root causes of global warming and would make B.C. a North American leader on the issue.

"Simply talking about it is not going to get us there," he said.

Already the province is seeing the effects of global warming, he added, with things like the pine beetle epidemic and reduced stream flows.

"B.C. has a lot at stake," Bruce said. "British Columbians are craving leadership on the issue of climate change."

Climate and environment related promises in the throne speech included:

Other items of note from the speech:

Related Tyee stories:


Read more: Politics, Environment

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