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British Columbia and the Climate Race
Sarah Rich, 23 Feb 07
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Up and down the west coast, state and local governments are trying to out-green one another. It's well known that Schwarzenegger has been hard at work cutting and capping California's emissions like the mighty Governator that he is. Meanwhile, Oregon's Governor Kulongoski has announced intentions to tackle the emissions problem by bolstering the state's renewable energy policy and industry. A little farther north, Washington's Gov. Christine Gregoire just signed an executive order committing Washington to reducing emissions levels to those of 1990 by the year 2020. This, of course, is on par with Schwarzenegger's goals, and many are calling it good but not good enough.

One of those would be British Columbia's Premier, Gordon Campbell, who (alongside Lieutenant-Governor Iona Campagnolo) outdid all of his west coast counterparts south of the border in the recent Speech from the Throne, in which the Liberal government introduced a 23-point plan for fighting global warming. They intend to bring emissions down to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, to institute auto emissions regulations and carbon sequestration mandates for coal-fired power plants. As our friends at the keen-sighted Sightline Institute put it, BC appears to have taken each step of California's plan and pushed it up a notch. According to The Globe and Mail:

Other green measures included commitments to require all B.C.-produced electricity to have net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2016, a goal described as unprecedented in North America; reduce emissions from the oil and gas industry to 2000 levels by 2016; and establish a hydrogen highway to run from Whistler to San Diego by 2010.

None of these gubernatorial proclamations was received without some grumbling and criticism, though. The Globe and Mail reported that Campbell is known for grabbing hold of the issue of the day and lacking follow-through on his announced intentions. Sightline bemoaned the slow approach Gregoire seemed to be taking, a sentiment that was met by other Washington publications who wondered why action wouldn't be immediate on a very immediate problem.

But the internal quibbling doesn't eclipse the fact that the whole coast is raising the bar on building local capacity to combat a challenge toward which larger governing bodies have been slow to step up. In the climate change game, a little competition can get more done than good intentions.

What's more, the competitive landscape that's truly important is not that of the West Coast today, but that which is emerging globally in the near future. The future will be carbon-restricted, and those companies and countries which move quickly now towards climate-friendliness are going to find themselves with a distinct competitive advantage in the near future. State and provincial climate change policies are not just ethically correct -- they're good economic policy.

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Everyone is praising the Liberal's new coat of green paint, as though the two proposed coal-fired power plants have already received a final stake through the heart.

However there is a large problem -- a problem so huge, that letting two dirty coal plants be built in BC is just the tip of the iceberg. The problem is the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, better known as TILMA.

An even bigger problem is that Gordon Campbell knows damn well that he has little power to implement the wonderful-sounding things he outlined in the Throne Speech. His new-found greenness rings hollow and insincere in the face of TILMA, which he quietly signed, without public nor legislative review, in April 2006.

If you haven't heard of TILMA, it is to BC what Measure 37 was to Oregon two years ago -- in effect, a "harmonization" of regulations between BC and Alberta, with emphasis on protecting property rights of investors. But unlike Oregon's Measure 37, TILMA was made law without public nor legislative input. At least the citizens of Oregon got suckered by an expensive, big-business initiative campaign, instead of being quietly ignored, as with TILMA!

Under Oregon's Measure 37, an owner of property in the middle of suburbia can decide they want to put a pig farm there. If the local zoning laws preclude this -- as they should -- the property owner can file a claim to be compensated for the value of the "taking" of his proposed use of the land, and the jurisdiction must either pay up, or allow the pig farm. Oregon courts are currently clogged with some 7,000 such claims involving over half a million acres, according to a study by The Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies, at Portland State University.

TILMA could be interpreted similarly. It has the potential to gut the authority of Islands Trust, the Agricultural Land Commission, and Regional Districts and local governments throughout BC. One could envision the opposite of the situation above, where an Albertan developer chooses to put four houses per acre in the middle of prime BC farmland -- or collect $5 million for NOT doing so, as decided by an extra-judicial tribunal of his investor-class peers.

I imagine that once TILMA quietly goes into effect on (you ready for this?) April Fools Day, the two proposed coal-fired power plants will be revived, with the BC government saying, "Sorry, our hands are tied by this here piece of paper!" It says it right there in Article 5, Paragraph 2: "Parties shall not establish new standards or regulations that operate to restrict or impair trade, investment, or labour mobility." I'll bet the lawyers at Compliance Power Corporation and AESWapiti Energy Corporation (contractors for the two proposed coal fired plants) are already thumbing through their briefs.

American voters in five western states wisely defeated TILMA-like initiatives last November, with only Arizona joining Oregon in relinquishing regulation in favor of investment. Shouldn't BC voters have the same opportunity?


Posted by: Jan Steinman on 23 Feb 07

NDP Leader Carol James came out on Feb. 5, the day before Campbell gave his speech, with this plan:

Feb 5, 2007 2:40:00 PM MST

B.C. NDP want greenhouse gas emissions frozen, part of climate change plan (NDP-Climate)

VICTORIA (CP) _ British Columbia should immediately cap greenhouse gas emissions, ban new coal-fired generating stations and channel provincial revenues from oil and gas to bolster the emerging green economy through a heritage fund, says NDP Leader Carole James.

“(Premier) Gordon Campbell wants to take us backwards,‘‘ James said Monday.

“But now it‘s time to move forward to protect our environment for this generation and generations to come.‘‘

In addition to immediately freezing greenhouse gas emissions at 2007 levels, James also wants the premier to establish an all-party legislative committee to set targets for reducing emissions in the medium and long term."
-----
So part of what is happening here is setting up for BC elections in which James will run against Campbell. This is another way the issue is being ratcheted up politically. And Campbell is squirming over those coal plants. BC wentf rom a legislature a few years that had a Stalinist proportion of Liberal Party seats back to one in which NDP approaches parity - It is clear NDP is in a very competitive position. Having a woman with First Nations roots as premier of BC would be a first.


Posted by: Patrick Mazza on 23 Feb 07

NDP Leader Carol James came out on Feb. 5, the day before Campbell gave his speech, with this plan:

Feb 5, 2007 2:40:00 PM MST

B.C. NDP want greenhouse gas emissions frozen, part of climate change plan (NDP-Climate)

VICTORIA (CP) _ British Columbia should immediately cap greenhouse gas emissions, ban new coal-fired generating stations and channel provincial revenues from oil and gas to bolster the emerging green economy through a heritage fund, says NDP Leader Carole James.

“(Premier) Gordon Campbell wants to take us backwards,‘‘ James said Monday.

“But now it‘s time to move forward to protect our environment for this generation and generations to come.‘‘

In addition to immediately freezing greenhouse gas emissions at 2007 levels, James also wants the premier to establish an all-party legislative committee to set targets for reducing emissions in the medium and long term."
-----
So part of what is happening here is setting up for BC elections in which James will run against Campbell. This is another way the issue is being ratcheted up politically. And Campbell is squirming over those coal plants. BC wentf rom a legislature a few years that had a Stalinist proportion of Liberal Party seats back to one in which NDP approaches parity - It is clear NDP is in a very competitive position. Having a woman with First Nations roots as premier of BC would be a first.


Posted by: Patrick Mazza on 23 Feb 07

NDP Leader Carol James came out on Feb. 5, the day before Campbell gave his speech, with this plan:
"immediately cap greenhouse gas emissions, ban new coal-fired generating stations and channel provincial revenues from oil and gas to bolster the emerging green economy through a heritage fund, says NDP Leader Carole James. In addition to immediately freezing greenhouse gas emissions at 2007 levels, James also wants the premier to establish an all-party legislative committee to set targets for reducing emissions in the medium and long term."

So part of what is happening here is setting up for BC elections in which James will run against Campbell. This is another way the issue is being ratcheted up politically. BC went from a legislature a few years that had a Stalinist proportion of Liberal Party seats back to one in which NDP approaches parity - It is clear NDP is in a very competitive position. Having a woman with First Nations roots as premier of BC would be a first.


Posted by: Patrick Mazza on 23 Feb 07



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