B.C. Scrambles to Square LNG Development with GHG Reductions as Investment Decision Nears
As a group of investors led by Royal Dutch Shell moves toward a final investment decision on the massive, C$40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas development, the Globe and Mail is predicting challenging times for British Columbia’s NDP minority government as it tries to square natural resource-intensive economic development with its promise of a sound carbon reduction plan for the province.
“From wellhead to dockside, the emissions from LNG Canada would be massive,” the Globe and Mail reports. “The company says two megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year would be produced in the first phase of the project—but it doesn’t include the significant amount of GHGs produced in extracting gas from the ground and sending it to the coast by pipeline.” The Globe cites the Pembina Institute’s calculation that the project “would add 8.6 megatonnes of GHGs to the atmosphere in 2030—the year B.C. is supposed to have reduced its total emissions below 39 megatonnes.”
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The politics of approving the project would be telling, the Globe notes: Former Liberal premier Christy Clark, the architect of the province’s LNG dreams, “never cut a ribbon,” while current Premier John Horgan, whose New Democrats Clark labelled the “party of no”, get what reporter Justine Hunter calls an “economic coup”.
But the carbon impact of allowing the project looms larger for the current premier than it did for the previous one. “Clark didn’t stress about meeting climate action targets—under her watch, the province abandoned its legislated reduction targets for the year 2020,” the Globe notes. “Horgan, however, has promised to get the province’s climate plan back on track by 2030, and that means major reductions in GHG emissions across the board.”
Horgan said the B.C. business community is ready for the “sacrifices” that will be needed in other sectors to open up space in the province’s carbon budget for LNG. “We have been speaking to industry broadly, and they are almost unanimous—the Board of Trade, the Business Council, the Chamber of Commerce—they want to see this development take place. Those same organizations have also said they are supportive of climate action and want to see emissions reduced across the board,” he told Hunter. “So if we have an increase in emissions from the advent of LNG, then we are going to have to see concurrent reductions in other sectors.”
Climate scientist and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, whose three-member caucus holds the balance of power in B.C.’s minority legislature, has called the New Democrats’ support for LNG “galling” and a “generational sellout”. He now says he’s “giving the NDP the benefit of the doubt” on a climate plan that will be released after the LNG Canada consortium announces its final investment decision.
But Weaver “says he is struggling to figure out how it is possible to accommodate an LNG industry,” Hunter writes. And “his caucus is prepared to withdraw its support for the NDP government if they aren’t persuaded the new climate plan adds up.”
Weaver and his colleagues won’t be the only ones watching. In a recent post for The Narwhal, Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s senior forest and climate campaigner, identifies “new fossil fuel projects incompatible with meaningful climate action” as one of three “elephants in the room” B.C.’s strategy will have to address. The other two are an emissions reduction target that is insufficient, and the failure to account for and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from “destructive logging, slash burning, and wildfires” in the province’s forests.
At 100 and 120 megatonnes of lifetime emissions, respectively, he writes that LNG Canada and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion “would massively increase provincial and national emissions and make it impossible to meet even our current, insufficient targets.”
Wieting adds that “true leadership requires following the example of France and banning all new fossil fuel extraction projects, combined with a phaseout of existing projects by no later than 2040,” citing the 2017 Lofoten Declaration signed by more than 800 civil society organizations.
By contrast, Wieting notes, Horgan declared last month that “B.C. is just 4.5 million people sharing a planet with seven billion others. We have to be realistic about what our impacts would be.” That statement, he adds, “is a huge letdown for British Columbians. All parts of the international community consist of nations or regions with a few million people. What if all of them followed the same argument?”
Yet the logistics and supports for the LNG Canada project continued to line up, with TransCanada announcing last week that it has completed benefits agreements with all 20 First Nations along the route of its 650-kilometre, $4.7-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat.
“We’re in a great position to move forward if LNG Canada does decide to make a final investment decision,” said company spokesperson Jacquelynn Benson. She also “pointed to an announcement in July that TransCanada had conditionally awarded $640 million in contracting and employment opportunities to northern B.C. Indigenous businesses,” the Vancouver Sun reports.
“First Nations in northern B.C. have a real opportunity to work together to build benefits for each of our communities, which respects Aboriginal rights and title, separate from the political realm,” said Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith. “This announcement from Coastal GasLink is an example of that opportunity.”
In 2014, at the height of Clark’s attempts to boost her government’s LNG dreams, self-described “chart geek” Barry Saxifrage reviewed the 13 proposed projects that would have produced a 13-fold increase in the province’s greenhouse gas emissions at the time. (h/t to The Energy Mix subscriber Bill Henderson for pointing us back to Saxifrage’s post)