Members of the public will rally in support of the case on the Vancouver law courts steps prior to the hearing
VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – Sierra Club BC, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, is before the B.C. Supreme Court today, suing the B.C. government for failing to report on whether its climate plans will achieve several of the province’s key greenhouse gas emissions targets.
The province’s 2019 Climate Change Accountability Act requires the B.C. government to publish an annual accountability report that describes plans for continuing progress toward B.C.’s emissions targets. Sierra Club BC is arguing that this requires the government to be fully transparent and report without gaps about how far these plans will move B.C. towards reaching each of its emissions targets. If the plans only get us part of the way there, B.C.’s accountability report has to be clear in telling us that.
This information is critical for the public to hold the government accountable to develop climate plans that are adequate to meet all of the emissions targets it has set in law.
Under its climate accountability legislation, B.C. has province-wide emissions targets for 2025, 2030, 2040, and 2050 and targets in 2030 for four sectors of the economy: oil and gas, industry, transportation, and buildings and communities.
B.C.’s 2021 Climate Change Accountability Report failed to explain how far the government’s plans will move the province toward achieving its 2025, 2040 and 2050 targets, as well as the crucial oil and gas sector target in 2030.
The B.C. government is not complying with its own climate accountability legislation at a time when the province’s emissions are too high, and the climate emergency is having an increasingly direct and damaging impact on the lives of people in B.C. Recently, people living in B.C. have been battered by extreme weather events tied to climate change, with 2021 being particularly devastating.
In June 2021, a deadly “heat dome” led to a devastating wildfire that destroyed much of the community of Lytton and caused approximately 600 heat-related deaths across B.C. In November 2021, record-breaking rainfall and flooding destroyed critical infrastructure and threatened thousands of people’s livelihoods in the Fraser Valley.
The Climate Change Accountability Act was meant to improve transparency and accountability, but the government has failed to explain if the province is on track to meet most of its emissions targets. Without this information, the public will not know if B.C. is blowing past its emissions targets until it is too late.
Alan Andrews, Ecojustice climate program director, said:
“B.C. was a leader in setting emissions targets in law, but what’s the use of having these targets if we don’t know if B.C’s plans will actually achieve them?
“The public has the right to expect their government to follow the letter of the laws that they author. And if they don’t, they should expect the public to take them to court.”
Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC senior forest and climate campaigner, said:
“Relentless, escalating climate disasters around the world are reminding us every day about the deadly consequences of missing our emissions targets. We need nothing short of full transparency to understand whether provincial climate plans are fit for the task at hand or not.
A collective last-ditch effort to stabilize our climate requires solid emission reduction pathways for every target and every sector on the path to 2050, as called for in provincial law. Leadership on climate requires acknowledging and tackling any gaps in our plans without further delay.”
- Like Canada, British Columbia has failed to meet emissions targets for over a decade. B.C.’s emissions have increased 15 per cent since 1990 (the first year for which BC has emissions data) and B.C.’s 2020 emissions are only one per cent below 2007 levels, the baseline year chosen by the province for its targets.
- The provincial Climate Change Accountability Act establishes several GHG emissions targets for B.C. out to 2050. The province-wide targets require emissions reductions of at least 16 per cent by 2025, 40 per cent by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040, and 80 per cent by 2050 (below 2007 levels). The oil and gas target requires a 33-38 per cent reduction by 2030 (below 2007 levels).
- Under this law, the B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy is required to publish an annual Climate Change Accountability Report, describing B.C.’s progress on reducing GHG emissions. The Report must include “plans to continue progress towards achieving” each of B.C.’s legislated emissions targets.
- The 2021 Accountability Report fails to explain how far B.C.’s climate plans – CleanBC and the Roadmap to 2030 – will move B.C. towards achieving four of its targets: the 2025, 2040, and 2050 targets and the 2030 target for the oil and gas sector. The Report provides this information for the 2030 target, showing that the province can provide such information.
- Despite the climate emergency, the B.C. government continues to support and subsidize the expansion of large fossil fuel projects – e.g. fracking operations in northeastern B.C. and the construction of the LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat. This project will drastically increase emissions when it starts operations in 2025, the same year B.C. emissions are supposed to be 16 percent lower than in 2007. LNG Canada and other proposed LNG terminals would almost certainly make it impossible to meet B.C.’s 2030, 2040 and 2050 targets.
Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.
Sierra Club BC is an environmental non-profit working to support people stewarding abundant ecosystems and a stable climate, while building resilient, equitable communities. The organization strives to do this by upholding Indigenous rights and title, reconnecting children and youth with nature, supporting grassroots-led climate action, and advocating for old-growth protection.