B.C. has become straggler in battle against greenhouse gases

vancouver sun

Province has yet to decide whether to join California and Quebec in Western Climate Initiative

By Derrick Penner, Vancouver Sun April 14, 2011

VANCOUVER – British Columbia and Ontario have become stragglers in the Western Climate Initiative and the ambitious plans of its member provinces and U.S. states to start carbon trading and reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases.

California, the initiative’s de facto leader, on Tuesday, reaffirmed its commitment to begin an aggressive cap-and-trade system for its carbon emissions starting in 2012 as Governor Jerry Brown announced the system will be extended to British Columbia and Quebec.

However, B.C. hasn’t yet made the decision to sign on in part because of the recent change in government leadership with Premier Christy Clark taking over from Gordon Campbell and the new priorities that change has introduced.

And Ontario has said it won’t be ready by the Jan. 1, 2012 start date.

“We need to get it right for both the environment and the economy,” Ontario Environment Minister John Wilkinson said to Reuters News.

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake said Clark’s government isn’t giving up the leadership it established on climate change with the carbon tax that it introduced, remains committed to its legislated greenhouse-gas-emission goals.

He added that the government’s new month-old cabinet hasn’t had a chance to give the cap-and-trade issue the “fulsome discussion” it needs.

“We have a new premier and everything we’re doing now we want to ensure meets the focus of how it affects families, how it creates jobs and we need to make sure the new cabinet is fully informed about the options around carbon pricing and the Western Climate Initiative,” Lake said in an interview.

Lake added that he expects cabinet will “certainly, in the near future, be getting around to that decision whether to enter with [California] in 2012 along with Quebec or to put if off or other options that may be available.”

The Western Climate Initiative office, in a statement, said the rule making to initiate carbon trading is on track to start by next year.

Quebec and California, however, assuming the most populous U.S. state can overcome a last-minute legal threat to its plans, aim to start carbon trading Jan. 1.

The provinces in the WCI along with its U.S. members in the Western states got together on the initiative to counter what they viewed as federal inaction on the issue on both sides of the border.

Cap-and-trade establishes a limit on total greenhouse-gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and then lets industrial plants — power plants, factories and mills — trade the right to pollute with those who build up credits for reducing their pollution or not allowing pollution.

James Tansey, a University of B.C. associate professor and strong supporter of cap and trade, said cap and trade has become a hot political issue, including in the federal election.

“Ontario has an election in the fall, Quebec seems to be pushing ahead, California seems to be confident despite the court case,” Tansey, who strongly favours cap and trade, said to Reuters.

“B.C. needs to prioritize the legislation and make a decision within the next month if it is going to hit the January deadline.”

Environmentalists and supporters of the Western Climate Initiative look at it as the best hope for putting a price on emitting carbon that will help reduce greenhouse-gas pollution and spur a new industry in cleaning up the environment.

Tansey said the five member states and four member provinces are making “tremendous progress” on linking regional programs including reporting standards, infrastructure and protocols for offsetting carbon emissions.

depenner@vancouversun.com

With files from Peter Henderson, Reuters

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