Climate Action Areas
In sectors across B.C., decisive action is being taken to address climate change.
Recently, British Columbia launched its 2016 Climate Leadership Plan, which introduced 21 new actions. This builds on the 2008 Climate Action Plan (PDF 4.4 MB), which laid the foundation for large-scale change.
B.C. remains committed to reducing emissions to 80% below 2007 levels by 2050, and recognizes more work needs to be done. Across the province, we’re taking cross-sector action, including carbon pricing, adaptation planning and international collaboration. In addition, we’re taking sector-specific action to reduce emissions and build a more resilient, low-carbon economy for B.C.
The information below is a brief summary of sector-specific climate action taken to date. For more detail on government’s recent climate plan, refer to the Climate Leadership Plan (PDF, 4.3 MB)
Accounting for approximately 37% of B.C.’s total emissions, transportation is an area in which climate action can have a major impact in B.C.
Low carbon fuel standard – B.C.’s low carbon fuel standard is significantly reducing emissions – by more than 2.3 million tonnes between 2010 and 2012 alone. B.C. is now increasing the standard to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels to 15% by 2030 – up from the current requirement of 10% by 2020 as compared to 2010.
Zero-emission vehicles – B.C.’s recently expanded Clean Energy Vehicle Program provides incentives toward the purchase or lease of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). This, combined with incentives offered through the B.C. SCRAP-IT program, means savings of up to $11,000 on new plug-in electric vehicles and $12,000 for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. To date, the $71 million invested in the program since 2011 has led to more than 4,800 ZEVs on the road and 1,250 charging stations, giving B.C. the largest public charging infrastructure network in the country.
HOV lanes – B.C.’s high occupancy vehicle or HOV lanes are open to all electric vehicles displaying an official decal, regardless of the number of passengers in the car.
Conversion of vehicles – The conversion of heavy-duty vehicles and buses to compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) has decreased emissions in commercial operations. The Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Clean Energy) Regulation allows B.C. utilities to invest in clean transportation and infrastructure by, for example, providing incentives to convert commercial fleets from higher-emitting diesel. To date, the regulation has lowered emissions by 75,000 tonnes. Programs under the GGRR are funded by the utility.
Marine centre – Recent amendments to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Regulation will also enable utilities to increase incentives to stimulate the use of LNG to fuel large marine vessels – thereby helping to establish B.C. as a global marine bunkering centre on the west coast. Converting just one deep sea vessel to run on LNG instead of heavy fuel oil could reduce GHG emissions by about 93,500 tonnes per year.
Renewable natural gas incentives – British Columbia is the only jurisdiction in North America to have a utility program for RNG. Since RNG can be used interchangeably for natural gas, the related GHG emissions reductions are significant. Recent enabling amendments to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Regulation will allow utilities to expand incentives for use of RNG so that eligible customers could double their incentives if they commit to running their vehicles on 100% RNG.
Public transit – Through B.C. on the Move, the 10-year transportation plan, the provincial government commits to share the funding of the cost of new rapid transit projects. Linking the communities of Burnaby, Port Moody and Coquitlam with Vancouver, the new Evergreen line makes SkyTrain the longest rapid transit system of its kind in Canada. The plan also helps expand B.C.’s fleet of clean compressed natural gas buses. The Province recently announced that it will match the federal government’s $2.2 billion investment in the capital costs of new transit projects in Metro Vancouver over the next 11 years, helping to create more transit-friendly communities. In addition, the province has committed to match the federal commitment of approximately $500 million for BC Transit capital projects.
Cycling infrastructure – Through the BikeBC program, the provincial government cost-shares cycling infrastructure projects with local governments to make biking a safer and more convenient option for commuters. The provincial government’s $20 million BC on the Move commitment between 2015 and 2017 helped complete more than 70 projects.
Clean dual propulsion systems allow BC Ferries’ three newest vessels to run on either liquefied natural gas or ultra-low sulphur diesel. The upcoming conversion of the company’s two largest existing vessels to this same system will reduce their carbon emissions by about 25%.
Electric shore power – The ports of Prince Rupert and Vancouver provide electrical power from shore to container ships, allowing vessels to power down their auxiliary diesel engines while at the terminal. In Prince Rupert – the first port in Canada to offer shore power – this reduces GHG emissions by an estimated 4,000 tonnes annually.
Adaptation – B.C. is looking forward – making plans to help ensure that our roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure will withstand extreme weather events and adapt smoothly to future climate conditions.
From the way we construct buildings and design communities to the way we manage waste, B.C.’s built environment is a crucial area for climate action. Including buildings, deforestation and waste, the built environment accounts for 24% of B.C.’s total emissions.
As signatories to B.C.’s Climate Action Charter, 187 local governments – 98% of the province’s total – have committed to measuring and reporting their community’s GHG emissions, creating more energy efficient communities and working towards carbon neutrality. To help support their efforts, grants – equal to the carbon taxes paid directly–are available under the associated Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program. In 2015, almost 30% of B.C. local governments achieved carbon neutrality. Working groups are currently in place to refresh climate action under the Charter.
The BC Building Code’s increasing requirements for energy conservation are leading to ongoing emission reductions. In 2013, more rigorous requirements for large residential, commercial and industrial buildings were implemented. In 2014, more stringent energy-efficiency requirements for houses and small buildings were introduced.
The Energy Step Code identifies incremental targets that go beyond the requirements of the BC Building Code. Focused on making buildings net-zero by 2032, the Energy Step Code has been developed for voluntary implementation by local governments.
B.C.’s Landfill Gas Management Regulation phases in requirements for landfill gas capture to reduce methane emissions and optimize gas recovery. Landfills generating 1,000 tonnes or more of methane are required to install landfill gas management systems.
Curbside programs divert organic waste from landfills in about 60% of B.C. communities. Without diversion programs in place, organic material can make up more than 40% of landfill waste. When recovered, this organic waste can be processed into useful products such as compost and biogas.
Energy efficiency programs like BC Hydro and FortisBC home renovation rebates help fund residential efficiency upgrades such as draft-proofing, natural gas water heaters, heat pumps and insulation.
District energy systems centralize the production of heating or cooling for a community, delivering energy services with greater efficiency and lower emissions. In the City of North Vancouver, for example, the Londsdale Energy Corp system provides heat to 42 buildings, including residential units, a hotel and school, and various offices and municipal buildings. By saving energy and reducing emissions, the project is helping School District 44 meet its carbon neutral requirements, while allowing LEC to integrate heat recovery and geo-exchange systems into its district energy system.
Community Energy Leadership Program (CELP), the government is providing $1.3 million over three years to support local governments’ and First Nations’ investments in projects that help reduce GHG emissions, increase energy efficiency, and stimulate economic activity. Projects to date include the City of Nelson’s central solar system, which is owned by community members, managed by the city’s municipal power utility and the first of its kind in Canada. In CELP’s first two calls for projects, the program supported 14 community projects valued at approximately $11 million.
B.C. industry creates thousands of good jobs but is a large-scale user of energy, accounting for about 18% of the province’s emissions. Effective climate action in industrial sectors can have a significant impact.
Carbon tax – Roughly 60% of the total emissions from this sector are subject to B.C.’s revenue-neutral carbon tax, which promotes emission reductions and spurs innovation.
Clean electricity – B.C.’s Clean Energy Act currently requires that at least 93% of electricity generated in British Columbia for the integrated grid be from clean or renewable sources. For 2016, BC Hydro is at 98% and exceeds this requirement. The Climate Leadership Plan commits that 100% of the electricity acquired by BC Hydro be from clean or renewable sources, except where concerns regarding reliability or cost must be addressed.
Efficient electrification – The B.C. government has approved an amendment to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Regulation (GGRR) that will enable utilities, such as BC Hydro and FortisBC, to offer incentives for transitioning to clean electricity. BC Hydro’s current demand management programs already support improved energy efficiency.
Offset projects – B.C.’s portfolio of offset projects helps reduce emissions while stimulating investment in greener industrial processes. Project types include fuel switching – moving to a lower GHG intensive fuel such as wood waste or biomass, for example – and equipment efficiency upgrades – thereby reducing the energy required to produce products such as lumber and pulp and paper. Offset investments contributed an estimated $372.5 million to B.C.’s GDP between 2008 and 2014.
Clean technology is one of five subsectors represented in the #BCTECH Strategy. The more than 200 clean-tech companies in B.C. provide 6,400 jobs and produce $1.6 billion in annual revenue.
Bioenergy – Established in April 2008 with a $25 million grant from the BC government, BC Bioenergy Network is an industry-led association that acts as a catalyst for enabling the production of clean transportation fuels in BC.
The Innovative Clean Energy (ICE) Fund supports new clean energy technologies. Since 2008, the fund has approved approximately $77 million for 62 projects. Recent investments include Carbon Engineering’s first synthetic fuels demonstration plant in Squamish, which captures and uses carbon dioxide directly from the air to enable production of ultra-low carbon fuels. Government has since committed to provide an additional $20 million to the ICE fund as part of a $40-million partnership with the federal government to support more clean-energy projects and technologies that reduce GHG emissions.
The First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund has, since its creation in 2010, helped more than 110 First Nations communities pursue renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. These include the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations Haa-ak-suuk run-of-river project and the Sci'anew (Cheanuh) Beecher Bay Band’s project that harnesses thermal energy from the ocean to heat homes. The approximate $8 million in funding to date has also attracted additional First Nations investment. The province is increasing funding by about $2.1 million over three years with a priority for remote communities currently dependent on diesel generation to transition to a clean energy supply.
Cement-industry incentives – Cement production is an energy-intensive process that uses large amounts of GHG-intensive fossil fuels including coal. In 2015/16, the Ministry of Environment launched an incentive program, providing $27 million over five years, which supports increasing the use of low-carbon fuels to displace coal, and reducing GHG emissions from cement manufacturing as much as possible. In order to receive funding, recipients of the program must undertake infrastructure improvements, establish supply contracts for low carbon fuels, and meet an emission intensity benchmark that steps down each year. Achieving the final benchmark will make B.C.’s cement plants among the cleanest in the world.
The oil and gas sector – dominated in B.C. by natural gas – has reduced its carbon intensity significantly in recent years, and now accounts for about 18% of B.C.’s total emissions.
Methane emissions reductions – B.C. calls for a 45% reduction by 2025 in fugitive and vented methane emissions from infrastructure built before January 1, 2015. B.C.’s Clean Infrastructure Royalty Credit Program is an incentive program to support the use of clean technologies that reduce GHG emissions from the oil and gas sector. The program offers royalty deductions of up to 50% of the cost of clean infrastructure such as solar pumps.
Carbon tax – B.C.’s revenue-neutral carbon tax applies to about 65% of oil- and gas-related emissions, making it a significant driver of reduction and innovation. Several new and existing natural gas plants in northeast B.C. have opted to electrify with clean grid electricity. The sector is also pursuing improved energy efficiency processes, such as waste heat recovery.
Electrification support – The B.C. government has approved a regulatory amendment under the Clean Energy Act to support the development of additional transmission infrastructure in northeast B.C. to serve increasing demand for electricity from the upstream natural-gas sector.
Offset projects – Offset projects encourage the use of cleaner technologies in natural gas development. For example, a number of gas processing facilities that previously relied on natural gas to power compressors and other equipment now use electricity following the construction of transmission lines that connect the facilities to the B.C. Hydro grid.
Venting and Flaring Reduction Guideline – The elimination of routine flaring at oil and gas wells and production facilities means the avoidance of significant GHG emissions each year.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) emission limit – B.C.’s LNG emission limit requires liquefied natural gas operations to achieve a GHG emissions intensity benchmark of 0.16 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per tonne of LNG produced. As of 2016, this benchmark is lower than that of any other LNG export facility in the world.
An effective provincial approach to climate action depends on positioning B.C.’s foundational sectors for the emerging low-carbon economy.
Forest Carbon – B.C.’s Forest Carbon Initiative, the operational arm of the provincial Forest Carbon Strategy, supports increased use of residual wood, rehabilitating forests, fertilization and high density planting to optimize B.C.’s forest’s carbon-storage ability while avoiding emissions. A recent $150 million FCI investment to the Forest Enhancement Society of BC will support the planting of tens of millions of new trees and other forest management activities. It will also help strengthen partnerships with First Nations and stakeholders, while revitalizing rural economies.
Adapting our Forests – Adapting British Columbia’s natural resource management to a changing climate is important for maintaining the benefits these resources provide to communities and industries in the province. A 2015-2020 Climate Change Strategy for natural resource governance integrates climate change into program areas, operations, resource management decisions and actions.
Offset projects – The B.C. Forest Carbon Offset Protocol was key to the development of B.C.’s carbon offset industry. In 2014, forestry offset projects removed 1.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, creating jobs and unlocking new revenue streams for communities, First Nations, forest companies and private land owners.
Wood construction – B.C.’s Wood First program encourages the innovative use of wood in buildings. For example, it has led to the creation of sustainable products like mass timber, a product with powerful structural properties but a much smaller carbon footprint than steel or concrete. Together with new codes that increase the maximum height for wood-framed residences, Wood First is increasing climate-friendly construction while strengthening the province’s forest-dependent communities.
Adaptation for Agriculture – Together, the Province, the agriculture industry, local governments and other partners are increasing agriculture’s ability to adapt to climate change through the B.C. Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative. Building on climate impact assessments, six important agricultural regions are proceeding to implement adaptation strategies developed through the collaboration. These regions include Cowichan, Delta, the Peace, the Cariboo, the Fraser Valley, and the Okanagan.
Building farm-level resilience – The Environmental Farm Plan Program helps producers find opportunities to decrease on-farm emissions and reduce climate risks by adopting beneficial management practices that enhance soil health, promote stewardship of riparian areas, advance integrated pest management, and increase energy efficiency. Cost-share funding is available for producers to invest in on-farm projects such as fuel switching, renewable natural gas, and upgraded irrigation systems. The Farm Adaptation Innovator Program (FAIP) supports applied research and knowledge sharing regarding climate resilient farm practices related to soil, water, crop, and livestock management.
Nutrient Management – Nutrient management programming is being expanded to include greater cost-share funding to support producers in implementing on-farm practices that optimize fertilizer and manure use, which could reduce GHG emissions by up to 100,000 tonnes annually.
From schools to health care services, B.C.’s public sector extends to almost every community in the province. Public sector organizations are ideally positioned to serve as catalysts for climate action across B.C.
Carbon neutral government – Each year since 2010, B.C. has achieved carbon neutral operations, maintaining a net impact of zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its entire provincial public sector including health authorities, school districts, universities, colleges, institutes, Crown corporations and government offices. B.C.’s carbon neutral commitment is a significant first in North America – one that’s reducing emissions, spurring clean technologies and saving energy costs.
Public sector buildings – Buildings account for almost 77% of B.C.’s provincial public sector emissions. But through its commitment to low-impact infrastructure, British Columbia’s public sector is leading by example. LEED Gold certification or equivalent must be met by all new provincial public sector buildings. Since the requirement was introduced in 2007, more than 95 public sector buildings have been built to meet or exceed it. This has raised the bar on construction standards across B.C., home to 24% of all LEED Gold and Platinum building projects registered in Canada since 2008. Going forward, emission reduction efforts will be expanded to increase the use of low-carbon and renewable materials – such as B.C. wood and Portland-limestone cement – in new public sector infrastructure.