VANCOUVER — If BC is to meet its emissions targets and not perpetuate the climate crisis, it must phase out its fossil fuel industries by mid-century, says a report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Winding Down BC’s Fossil Fuel Industries: Planning for Climate Justice in a Zero-Carbon Economy, by Marc Lee and Seth Klein, proposes a four-point plan to phase out BC’s fossil fuel industries over the next 20 to 30 years and fully decarbonize the economy by 2050, including a fair transition for workers and resource-dependent communities.
“Betting on a liquified natural gas industry and fracking to power BC’s economy is risky given low gas prices, a global glut of LNG and the likelihood that importers will cut their consumption of fossil fuels over the coming decades to meet their emissions targets,” says Lee. “And BC’s own climate action plans focus only on emissions within the province’s borders, side-stepping our role as a major fossil fuel exporter. This report aims to strengthen both our economic and climate plans.”
To date, government and industry in BC have focused on extracting and exporting as much fossil fuels as possible, worsening global over-supply problems rather than addressing the climate crisis, says Klein, a former director of CCPA-BC who is writing a book on mobilizing Canada for the climate emergency.
“Instead we need long-term strategic planning so that good green jobs are created as part of the transition away from fossil fuels. Otherwise we risk change being imposed on the province from outside. Decisions by governments in Asia on climate action could lead to BC’s fossil fuel exports drying up and workers being laid off,” he explained, adding that a fair transition for workers and communities that depend on fossil fuel industries is essential.
The authors note that the key elements of a wind-down must be planned with First Nations, recognizing that fossil fuel resources are often on lands that are unceded by First Nations or subject to treaties that may be violated by the cumulative damages of fossil fuel extraction.
This report is being published at a time of extreme polarization in BC and Canada over ‘energy politics’—jobs versus the environment versus Indigenous rights—and the authors hope their research will launch a conversation they believe is desperately needed, and one that governments and political parties have not been willing to engage in to date.
“We must have an honest conversation in BC about what would be needed to get to net-zero emissions by mid-century,” says Lee. “To promote a strong and equitable economy, the provincial government must commit to invest in green infrastructure, skills and training and to develop an industrial strategy around decarbonization.”
Job losses in fossil fuel industries can be addressed by creating new green jobs like remediating old fossil fuel sites, and building green infrastructure and renewable energy projects in affected areas, Lee says.
“When it comes to jobs the best defense is a good offence,” says Lee. “We know that a lot of work will be required to make the shift off fossil fuels and BC should embrace the challenge as a collective province-building project.”
The report recommends that BC invest two per cent of the province’s GDP annually in the transition (about $6 billion in 2019). Such investments would support approximately 42,000 direct and indirect jobs in a range of green economic activity.
“The good news is that we now have real examples of transition packages for coal workers in places such as Alberta and Spain that model how this should be done. The Columbia Basin Trust is a home-grown initiative that could be applied to regions heavily impacted by a fossil fuel wind-down,” he added.
The report calls for a moratorium on new fossil fuel leases, the end of fossil fuel subsidies and higher royalties on production during the phase-out period.
“Transition is going to happen whether we like it or not. If we start planning now we can ensure that no one is left behind,” Lee says.
The Corporate Mapping Project is jointly led by the University of Victoria, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (BC & Saskatchewan offices) and the Parkland Institute. This research was supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact Jean Kavanagh at 604-802-5729, [email protected]