Ottawa’s decision to withdraw from the international treaty on climate change doesn’t change B.C.’s determination to reach its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, Environment Minister Terry Lake says.
Lake spent last week at the international climate conference in Durban, South Africa, where the focus was on trying to extend the 2005 Kyoto Protocol. Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Monday that Canada will be the first country to formally withdraw from the Kyoto agreement, because it places an unfair burden on developed countries while exempting China, India and other developing countries.
Kyoto required Canada to cut greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. But by 2009, Canada’s emissions had risen to 17 per cent above 1990 levels, much of it due to expanded oilsands development in Alberta.
Lake said in an interview he understands Ottawa’s position, because the second round of the Kyoto agreement would only apply to 16 per cent of the world’s emitters.
“It doesn’t affect what we’re doing here in B.C., which is to continue on with our goals of 33 per cent reduction by 2020 and 80 per cent reduction by 2050,” Lake said.
With B.C.’s carbon tax in its fourth year, Lake said there has been a slight reduction in the province’s emissions. There is one more increase set for July 2012, with offsetting business and personal income tax cuts to keep it revenue neutral to the province.
“We have gone down, and part of that is due to our policies on carbon tax,” he said. “As it gets higher I think it changes people’s behaviour. It certainly changes industry’s behaviour.”
Lake said there is still a lot of international interest in B.C.’s carbon tax, which remains almost unique despite the view of economists that it is the best way to put a price on carbon emissions.
He acknowledged that B.C.’s growing natural gas industry makes it more important to develop carbon dioxide capture and storage in the province’s vast shale gas deposits.
Lake met with Australia’s director of climate policy, and learned that Australia is developing a liquefied natural gas (LNG) production facility with full carbon capture. Lake said B.C. will study that effort for its own LNG export plans.
Shifting Pacific Rim countries from coal to LNG can have a major effect on reducing greenhouse gases, he said.