Connecting the Dots

In their recent throne speech the Liberal government of British Columbia finally addressed the issue of climate change. However, the Liberals obviously haven’t connected the dots between their push for offshore oil and gas development and their putative climate action plan.

While the provincial government should win praise for breaking through their climate change denial phase, the Liberals’ climate action plan will stand in contradiction to their actions unless and until the provincial government abandons their intention to open up B.C.’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling.

Premier Gordon Campbell has previously stated his desire to see the current moratoria on oil and gas exploration and extraction lifted in B.C.’s coastal waters. This stance is cause for concern on many levels. More than a decade after the Exxon Valdez disaster, scientists continue to uncover new evidence of the accident’s ongoing impact on marine life. Lifting the moratoria would not only put our coastal environment at risk, but would clearly have negative climate impacts. One offshore oil rig alone emits the same quantity of air pollution as 7,000 cars driving 80 kilometres a day.

As David Suzuki points out, offshore oil and gas drilling will not only compromise Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, but expanding the oil and gas industry will only perpetuate our current dependence on fossil fuels, which is contrary to the aims of the Kyoto Protocol (to which the federal government committed Canada) to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Suzuki, the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning the crude oil and natural gas drilled from B.C.’s coast would be the equivalent of putting 13 million cars on the road for 20 years (the life of the offshore project). Greenhouse gas emissions from the production of oil and gas are growing faster than any other source in the province.

Premier Campbell is scheduled to meet with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the near future to discuss climate change issues. In fact, Campbell’s political handlers and cheerleaders in the media have taken to calling him the “Gordinator,” a take-off on Schwarzenegger’s “Governator” nickname, in an attempt to frame Campbell’s positioning on climate change as equivalent to the California governor.

But there is at least one cavernous difference between the Gordinator and the Governator – Campbell wants to turn the magnificent B.C. coast into the province’s oil patch while Schwarzenegger opposes any changes to the current moratorium on offshore oil drilling in California.

>From Schwarzenegger’s website: “Recently, the Governor reaffirmed his strong position supporting a permanent ban on any new oil and gas leases off the coast. In a letter to Acting Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett, the Governor again stated his long-held position that a federal moratorium prohibiting new leases and exploration for oil and gas must remain in effect.” It will probably be a cold day in hell before Campbell’s Liberal government makes a similar pronouncement in British Columbia.

Liberal forestry policies also show evidence of a major disconnect between the government’s actions and their throne speech rhetoric on climate change. The province has designated over four million hectares of the Great Bear Rainforest, the largest intact network of temperate rainforest left on earth, as an “Ecosystem Based Management” zone in which commercial logging will take precedence.

The Campbell government’s plans to allow logging in nearly 70 percent of the Great Bear Rainforest flies in the face of their stated concern about climate change, particularly given the important role the Great Bear Rainforest likely plays in sequestering carbon.

Forests play a major part in Earth’s carbon cycle. Trees convert atmospheric carbon from CO2 into organic woody biomass as part of a respiratory process called photosynthesis. Trees then store the carbon until the woody biomass is destroyed; this carbon storage is called sequestration.

The Union of Concerned Scientists states, “as globally important storehouses of carbon, forests play a critical role in influencing the Earth’s climate. Mature forests and other forest areas with recognized high conservation value should be fully protected. Even careful commercial forestry operations in high conservation value forests impose substantial costs to other forest ecosystem services. . .these forests should not be managed for timber.”

In a recent speech, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pointedly blamed wealthy industrialized countries for global warming and said they should stop telling Brazil what to do with the Amazon rainforest, highlighting the double standard northern governments apply to their own forests.

As BBC News reported, Lula said wealthy countries were skilful at drafting agreements and protocols, like the Kyoto treaty, to appear as if they were doing something to reverse dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. In practice, however, he said the results prove otherwise.

A blatant example of the hypocrisy Lula spoke of occurred this past week when the BC Liberals brought down a budget that contains little or no funding for their climate action plan. In B.C. it is governance by public relations-make a dramatic announcement one week promoting a chimeric plan to tackle climate change and the next week make sure there is no money to actually carry it out.

CHRIS GENOVALI is executive director of the Raincoast Conservation Society and can be reached at: chris@raincoast.org

 

 

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