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Letter: LNG Canada, B.C. climate targets in light of the 2018 IPCC report

To The Editor:

Dear:  Honourable John Horgan, Premier

Cc: Honourable George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy Honourable Michelle Mungall, Minister of Energy and Mines

From:  Climate Change Scientists and Climate Policy Experts

Date:  December 2, 2018

Re: LNG Canada and B.C. climate targets in light of the 2018 IPCC report  

Dear Premier Horgan, 

We, the undersigned scientists and climate experts, are calling on the B.C. government to:

  1. Revise and implement B.C.’s climate targets to a 50% reduction by 2030 compared to 2007i and zero emissions by 2050, following the recommendation of the IPCC and including 5-year interim targets for each sector of the economy.
  2. Include a climate test in environmental impact assessment for all industrial projects to ensure new infrastructure does not undermine the ability to meet 5-year sectorial targets. 
  3. Stop subsidizing LNG Canada due its significant adverse environmental effects from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

As scientists and climate experts, we are deeply concerned about the effects of climate change in this country and abroad.

We conclude:

Stronger targets are essential

  • The IPCC report concluded that avoiding catastrophic climate impacts requires “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. ii The findings of the report make it clear that all countries of the world must stop building new fossil fuel projects. It also suggested that B.C.’s – and many other jurisdictions’ – emission reduction targets iii are inconsistent with avoiding dangerous warming. The IPCC report shows that on the current warming trajectory, the planet will have warmed a total of 1.5°C around 2040 and that halting the warming trend close to this critical threshold will require meeting net zero emissions mid-century.
  • While many other countries have reduced their emissions. iv B.C.’s emissions have been increasing in four of the last five years and the provincial emissions are still close to 2007 levels. 

Having targets is insufficient unless they are implemented 

  • Develop 5-year emission reduction targets for each sector of the economy for 2020, 2025, 2030 and coming decades, based on the UK model, vi outlining how each sector including the LNG industry will contribute to the overall provincial target. 

LNG Canada is not compatible with B.C.’s existing climate targets, let alone the stronger targets required

  • Estimates of emissions from the LNG Canada facility by the Pembina Institute vii and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives viii range from 8.6 to 12 million tonnes. The project would consume the vast majority of even B.C.’s weak current 2050 emission target (13 million tonnes).
  • The provincial estimate, 3.45 million tonnes of emissions from LNG Canada, only considers the first half of the project and does not include all of the upstream emissions caused by extraction and transporting the gas destined for LNG Canada.ix 
  • Estimates do not include increased emissions from burning exported LNG abroad. This would add another 38 million tonnes annually for each phase x of the project (i.e. 76 million tonnes total) in other countries, exceeding all emissions from within B.C. today.

Higher than reported methane leakage makes fracked gas as bad for the climate as coal  

  • Recent research suggests that methane emissions from fracking are at least 2.5 times higher than what the province estimates and that almost half of BC’s active wells are emitting methane-rich plumes. xi NASA recently attributed the global increase of the powerful greenhouse gas methane to the oil and gas industry. xii While methane does not stay as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is 84 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas in the short term (i.e. over a 20 year period). Depending on the rate of methane leakage from fracking wells the climate impact of the use of gas can be as bad as the use of coal. xiii 

Limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels will require a massive effort to reduce emissions. We therefore request that you strengthen B.C.’s climate targets, including 5-year sectoral targets, implement a climate test, reject plans that would lock us in fossil fuel extraction and GHG emissions for decades to come, and withhold subsidies for LNG Canada to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

There are few jurisdictions in the world with a greater opportunity to lead and inspire others than British Columbia. The matter is urgent, and we look forward to your rapid response. 

Sincerely,

Christopher R. Barnes CM, FRSC, DSc, PhD, PGeo, Professor Emeritus, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences 

Julia K. Baum, Associate Professor of Biology, EWR Steacie Fellow, PEW Fellow in Marine Conservation

Dr. Eddy C. Carmack, Senior Research Scientist Emeritus, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Institute of Ocean Sciences

Peter U. Clark, Distinguished Professor of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

Garry K. C. Clarke, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Sciences

Dr. Isabelle Coté, Professor of Marine Ecology

Dr. Curran Crawford, Associate Professor, Institute for Integrated Energy Systems

Dr. Kerry R. Delaney, PhD, Professor

Jacques Derome, Professor Emeritus, Dynamical Meteorology and Climatology, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Stephen Déry, Professor, Environmental Science and Engineering Program

Gwenn E. Flowers, Professor, Department of Earth Sciences

Eric Galbraith, ICREA Research Professor

Bill Gutowski, Professor of Meteorology, Department of Geological & Atmospheric Science

James E. Hansen, PhD, Professor

Danny Harvey, Professor, Department of Geography

Claude Hillaire-Marcel, D. és Sci, FRSC, Life Emeritus Professor

Thomas Homer-Dixon, Professor and CIGI Chair of Global Systems, Faculty of Environment

Dr. Karen E. Kohfeld, Professor, School of Resource and Environmental Management

René Laprise, Professeur, Département des Sciences de la Terre et de l'Atmosphère

Shawn Marshall, Professor

Damon Matthews, Professor and Concordia Research Chair, Geography, Planning and Environment

Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies, Co-founder of 350.org 

Brian Menounos, PhD, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Glacier Change

Lawrence Mysak, Canada Steamship Lines Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Thomas F. Pedersen, PhD, FRSC, FAGU, Professor Emeritus, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences

W.R. Peltier, PhD, Professor and Director of the Centre for Global Change Science

Stephen Pond, Professor Emeritus, Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences

Lynne Quarmby, PhD, Professor

William E. Rees, PhD, FRSC, Professor Emeritus, SCARP

Dr. James Renwick, Professor of Physical Geography, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences

D.W. Schindler, OC, AOE, FRS, FRSC, Killam Memorial Professor of Ecology Emeritus

Steven Sherwood, Professor, ARC Laureate Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, UNSW Climate Change Research Centre

Drew Shindell, Nicholas Professor of Earth Science, Nicholas School of the Environment

Lev Tarasov, Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography

James Tully, Emeritus Distinguished Professor

Dr. Diana E. Varela, Professor, Department of Biology & School of Earth and Ocean Sciences

John B. Walsh, Emeritus Professor of Math

Dr. Anne V. T. Whyte, PhD, F.R.S.C., Environmental Scientist

Louise Wootton, PhD, Chair of Biology, Director of Sustainability

Boris Worm, Killam Research Professor, Department of Biology

Kirsten Zickfeld, PhD, Associate Professor

Reference Material Links

i The IPCC calls for 45% reduction by 2030, compared to 2010. BC’s baseline year, however, is 2007. In order to meet the remaining carbon pollution budget for BC consistent with the IPCC recommendation the province has to meet 48.5% reduction by 2030, compared to 2007. This is the reason why we are suggesting 50%. BC GHG emissions were 64.66 million tonnes in 2007 and 60.578 million tonnes in 2010. 

ii http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/session48/pr_181008_P48_spm_en.pdf

iii B.C.’s current targets are a 40% reduction by 2030 and 80% by 2050, compared to 2007 levels.

iv https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/eu-countries-2020-six-years-climate-change-environment-carbon-cutting-emissions-targets-a7097916.html

v https://sierraclub.bc.ca/bcs-greenhouse-gas-emissions-risen-four-of-last-five-years/

vi https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/submission-bc-government-and-climate-solutions-and-clean-growth-advisory

vii http://www.pembina.org/media-release/lng-canada-fid

viii https://www.policynote.ca/lng-is-incompatible-with-bcs-climate-obligations/

ix https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-the-path-for-pipelines-how-bc-is-embracing-one-fighting-another/

x https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/b-c-s-race-to-a-post-carbon-economy-will-change-everything

xi https://davidsuzuki.org/science-learning-centre-article/mobile-measurement-of-methane-emissions-from-natural-gas-developments-in-northeastern-british-columbia-canada/

xii https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasa-led-study-solves-a-methane-puzzle

xiii http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2018/06/20/science.aar7204.full