BC’s fight against climate change, explained

In 2007, Gordon Campbell decided the province would lead the world and slash emissions. What happened?
By Tom Barrett
TheTyee.ca

Editor’s note: With voting day just over two weeks away, we look back on big issues that have driven debate in our province during the last 12 years of BC Liberal governance. What did B.C.’s leaders and opposition parties say and do on these major files? What are they saying now? What are the facts? Humbly offered here, a cure for political amnesia among candidates and media alike. Today, we walk you through B.C.’s record on climate policy.

Photo by kvdl http://www.flickr.com/photos/kvdl/ in Your BC: The Tyee's Photo Pool. http://www.flickr.com/groups/thetyee/
Photo by kvdl in Your BC: The Tyee’s Photo Pool

It’s hard to believe today, but back in January 2007 a lot of people cared a lot about climate change.

It had been a weird, warm winter in much of Canada. Al Gore was showing his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Newscasts talked about endangered polar bears.

A Decima poll suggested that Canadian voters thought the environment was at least as important as the economy, which, we should remember, appeared to be steaming along merrily. Even Prime Minster Stephen Harper was trying to look green.

In B.C., premier Gordon Campbell had done some reading about climate change and decided that B.C. would be a world leader when it came to cutting planet-warming greenhouse gases. As was his wont, he threw all the resources of the government into his new enthusiasm.

Word leaked to environmentalists, who speculated that Campbell would commit the province to the kind of GHG reduction targets that California had recently adopted. They weren’t disappointed.

In February, Campbell announced that B.C. would cut its emissions by at least one-third by 2020. Alternative energy sources would be encouraged. Ninety per cent of the province’s electricity would have to come from clean, renewable sources.

Not everything fit into this new green world, however. The 2007 provincial budget talked about expanding the oil and gas industry, including offshore drilling. Environmentalists were not so happy about that. Continue reading