As the world continues to grapple with the climate and ecological crises a number of new environmental policies are anticipated for 2023 in 2023.
But are they going to be enough to meet critical climate and biodiversity goals, and help us adapt to the increasingly frequent and severe impacts of global warming?
Here’s a look at a few changes coming:
Cap on emissions from oil and gas sector
This is a federal pledge that will affect the natural gas sector in B.C. Canada’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has said this cap will be ready by the end of next year, with draft regulations expected this spring.
He did not give a number for that cap. However, the Emissions Reduction Plan published in March set a tentative emissions target for oil and gas in 2030 of 110 million tonnes. That’s a 46 per cent cut from 2019 levels, and 32 per cent over 2005.
Canada is aiming to cut emissions across all sectors 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. Emissions from oil and gas production account for about one quarter of Canada’s total carbon footprint, and are 83 per cent higher than they were 30 years ago
Rick Smith, the president of the Canadian Climate Institute, said they conducted an assessment of Canada’s emission reduction plan and came to the conclusion that if the government implements the details of the plan, the country will be on track to hitting its 2030 emissions reduction targets. However, he said that a strong oil and gas cap is essential.
“The cap on emissions from the oil and gas sector is critical. We’ve done the calculations and without that the oil and gas sector will not make progress on pollution reduction and the country will not hit our 2030 emission reduction targets,” said Smith.
30×30 biodiversity target
Both the federal and B.C. governments have pledged to meet the 30×30 target aimed at the biodiversity crisis. The plan is to conserve at least 30 per cent of land and water by 2030. The ambitious goal would mean nearly doubling the area that is currently conserved.
Following COP 15 in Montreal, 55 countries or regions have pledged to meet this target, including Canada, the European Union and Mexico.
Meeting 30 per cent means the country will have to protect an area roughly equivalent to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined, according to UBC researcher Matthew Mitchell, in a report on how to meet the 30×30 target.
He says while natural areas are often prioritized for conservation, farms, forests and rangelands will also be key to achieving the 30 per cent target.
For more on this read Derrick Penner’s report Biodiversity: How will B.C. protect 30% of the province by 2030?
Natural gas development
Premier David Eby recently stated: “We cannot continue to expand fossil-fuel infrastructure and hit our climate goals.” However climate advocates say there is a glaring gap in how it plans to meet its emissions goals when it’s starting up new LNG plants.
Eby says a plan for how that target will be met can be expected in 2023.
There are five proposed LNG projects seeking approval in B.C. but environment advocates say if these go through it will be impossible to meet targets for 2025 and 2030, as confirmed by B.C.’s CleanBC Climate Change Accountability Report.
The report shows that B.C. is on track to miss its 2025 target by 15 per cent, and will fall short of the 2030 target.
Andrew Patrick, a spokesperson for B.C.’s Environment Ministry, said in 2023 B.C. will being in new policy to ensure the oil and gas sector reduces methane emissions by 75 per cent by 2030. There will also be new requirements for this industry that mandate all new projects have plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, he added.
In 2023, the B.C. government will set new zero emission vehicle (ZEV) targets into law to ensure 26 per cent of all light-duty vehicles sold in the province are ZEVs by 2026, increasing to 90 per cent by 2030, said Patrick.
The government also pledges to introduce a Clean Transportation Action Plan for how it will reduce emissions in this sector, ensure new standards for space and water heating are in place by 2030, and phase in new building requirements that will ensure all new buildings in B.C. emit no carbon pollution by 2030.
Climate action report card
The B.C. Climate Emergency Campaign recently submitted a Climate Action Report Card to Eby, issuing the government a failing grade for its progress on implementing urgent actions to confront the climate emergency.
The environmental group says to limit temperature rise to 1.5 C, B.C. needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 7.5 per cent every year between now and 2030.
It wants the government to transform its CleanBC plan into a “genuine climate emergency plan” with 10 urgent actions, including to set binding climate pollution targets, rapidly wind down all fossil fuel production, and accelerate the transition to zero emission transportation.
Climate-related disasters in the province have accelerated the need for adaptation and emergency management. However, gaps in planning, implementation and evaluation still exist, according to a federal report earlier this year.
B.C. also this year released its first climate adaptation strategy, meant to provide a blueprint to protect communities from increased extreme heat, wildfires and flooding.
The need for more adaptation spending was highlighted in a Postmedia investigation published last month that found government efforts have fallen short of what is needed to properly protect B.C. communities from an expected increase in flooding and wildfires fuelled by climate change.
The B.C. government says this year residents can expect a B.C. Flood Strategy, a provincial Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Plan, and engagement on the Watershed Security Strategy and the Coastal Marine Strategy.
—with files from The Canadian Press and Gord Hoekstra
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