Meeting BC’s climate change target

More musings below on how BC can meet its new climate change commitments. Hint: they go far beyond what was identified in the Throne Speech. But I am quite pleased that this discussion is happening on page one of the Vancouver Sun:

Campbell’s Green Dream

To reduce emissions by 33 %: Can he deliver?

On a per-capita basis, residents of this province are already among the lowest emitters in Canada, thanks in large part to a wealth of hydroelectric power resources that don’t contribute to global warming.

… The biggest potential gains in B.C. lie in the transportation sector, primarily the automobile. Nationally, transportation-related activities account for about 30 per cent of the nation’s greenhouse gas totals — compared to 41 per cent in B.C.Transportation plays a disproportionately large role in B.C. for two reasons, according to Simon Fraser University energy economist Mark Jaccard, in his book The Cost of Climate Policy.

The absence of coal-fired electricity generation facilities — which are the No. 1 source of power in North America — are one reason the B.C. transportation sector looms relatively larger as a polluter here on the West Coast. The other reason, Jaccard notes, is lack of good public transit and a congested road system in the Lower Mainland, home to most of the province’s 2.6 million motorists.

Greater Vancouver has “the highest average commuting time and one of the lowest rates of public transit use and walking in Canada,” Jaccard wrote. Both Jaccard and Guy Dauncey, president of the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association, worry that the government’s continued commitment to its Gateway transportation and port development strategy will undermine its emission efforts by attracting more single-occupancy vehicles to an expanded Lower Mainland road network.

Dauncey says an improved public transit system could have the same effect of improving travel times for the movement of goods around the region — without the cost of building new transportation infrastructure. Ultimately, a major reduction in emissions will have to come from a greater commitment by auto manufacturers to build more fuel-efficient, hybrid, and electric-powered vehicles.

B.C. doesn’t have the economic muscle to compel such a transformation — although Dauncey suggests that California’s recent announcement of higher fuel efficiency requirements could make it happen. Widespread adoption of electric cars would put a major dent in emissions, almost overnight.

“The sheer efficiency of an electric vehicle strategy is stunning,” Dauncey said. “It would only cost $10 a month to run if you drive 10,000 miles a year. There is a huge energy saving for the consumer, and all of that money is no longer leaving the province. All the money we spend at gas stations leaves the province, and goes off to Saudi Arabia or somewhere. When we use locally generated electricity, all that money stays in the province.”

… B.C.’s other major emission source, its industrial sector, has already made huge reductions in its emissions. Emissions from the province’s pulp and paper mills and sawmills are 39 per cent lower than they were in 1979.Jock Finlayson of the Business Council of B.C. said it’s possible that pulp mills can squeeze out further gains if they find a way to employ more biomass — mainly wood waste — to generate heat and energy to support their manufacturing processes. Wood waste is considered a sort of ‘free fuel’ by climate scientists because it releases the same amount of carbon dioxide whether you burn it as fuel or leave it on the forest floor to rot. However, Finlayson notes that going after other potentially large emitters such as B.C.’s natural gas and oil exploration sector, or the mining sector, could lead to significant constraints on the provincial economy.

“About 23 per cent of emissions are from upstream energy production, of which most is oil and [natural] gas,” Finlayson said. “Getting back to 2000 emission levels by 2016 would seem to preclude much growth in the oil and gas sector in B.C.,” he said, adding that applying a hard target “would certainly preclude” the expansion of the gas industry to new regions of the province that are believed to hold large gas reserves.

*****Transportation: More than 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in B.C. come from passenger vehicles, trucks, ships and other gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.

Industry: Fossil fuel exploration and development, manufacturing, mining, smelting and cement production account for 37 per cent of B.C. emissions.

Agriculture: ‘Enteric fermentation’ (methane from cow farts) and manure management account for four per cent of B.C.’s emissions.

Commercial: Five per cent of emissions come from commercial activity such as dry cleaning.

Residential: Waste gases from natural gas furnaces, and inefficient home heating designs contribute seven per cent of emissions.

Waste: Solid waste disposal, wastewater handling and waste incineration contribute eight per cent of emissions.

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