OPINION: One step forward, two steps back on climate | Squamish Chief

OPINION: One step forward, two steps back on climate

The climate emergency declaration bandwagon is gaining momentum in this province.

As it rumbles along, in too many instances a classic pattern of one step forward and two steps back is emerging.

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The $25-million loan from the federal government to fund Carbon Engineering’s Newport Innovation Centre on the Squamish oceanfront will certainly advance the climate mitigation agenda. The company’s industrially scalable direct air capture technology can convert one million tons of CO2 into carbon-neutral fuels annually. That figure is the equivalent of emissions from 250,000 cars.                                                                 

Also, getting more CO2 spewing vehicles off our roads will go a long way towards addressing the global climate challenge. And the proposed Sea to Sky Corridor regional transit service has been welcomed by all stakeholders as a step in that direction. Lamentably, the project continues to be tangled in red tape and procedural wrangling.

Recently, the B.C. provincial government mandated all new vehicles sold in the province to meet a zero-emissions target by 2040.

But, in what amounts to an ill-considered, penny-pinching move, the province has also announced it will slash the subsidy on electric vehicles costing less than $55,000. Cars and trucks above that threshold will be excluded from the grant altogether.

On another front, it is no secret that greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal are a major cause of our out-of-whack global climate. 

Ironically, Vancouver, the epicentre of anti-oil pipeline protests, ranks as the largest single exporter of coal in North America, with nearly triple the combined coal shipments compared to the entire U.S. West Coast. The CO2 discharged from B.C.’s coal exports is on par with potential air pollution from oil supplied via the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.                                                    

As well, the Port of Vancouver handles between 240 and 270 cruise ship calls annually. A report published in 2017 by NABU, a German organization focused on environmental stewardship, claims that a mid-sized cruise ship can burn as much as 150 tonnes of fuel daily, which is the equivalent of emissions from one million cars. 

At the same time as the provincial government fights tooth and nail to halt the twinning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, it has enthusiastically backed the Kitimat LNG facility. That project, which has been touted as the largest private sector investment in Canadian history, has the potential to increase marine traffic to levels many times greater than what will be generated by ships carrying bitumen from the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The assumption is that shipping LNG will be less of an environmental risk and it will reduce the use of coal in China and elsewhere. 

But not everyone is reading from the same hymn book. When the federal government announced it would top up the $40 billion Kitimat project with a $275 million subsidy, B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver criticized the move in the face of Ottawa’s recent climate emergency pronouncement.

All in all, governments of every stripe are attuned to reversing the current spate of unsettling global weather events. What is required now is less waffling and more concerted action to stay the course.

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