B.C.'s throne speech calls for a 33 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from current levels by 2020.

"It is an aggressive target and will set a new standard," said Lt.-Gov. Iona Campagnolo on Tuesday, reading the 42-page speech in the B.C. legislature.

"This isn't going to happen overnight," B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell told reporters in Victoria on Tuesday.

"We're all going to be required to change some of our behaviours. We're all going to have to think about what we do, and we're all going to have to be cognizant of the fact that there are impacts from each of our choices."

The government said that if reached, its proposed target for 2020 will mean emissions that are 10 per cent lower than 1990 levels.

Canada's Kyoto target calls for a six per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2012.

However, Canada's overall emissions have increased by 27 per cent over that 1990 baseline. The federal Conservative government has said Canada's Kyoto target can't be achieved.

British Columbia's greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be 35 per cent higher than in 1990, said Campagnolo.

"Because our emissions have grown so much since 1990, our task of reducing emissions in percentage terms will be that much more difficult."

However, the throne speech said the move to fight climate change is necessary to protect the future of the province's children.

To do so, B.C. is establishing a Climate Action Team. Here are some other proposals:

  • The climate team will be asked to identify ways to make the government of B.C. carbon-neutral by 2010.
  • All electricity produced in the province will be required to have zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.
  • The oil and gas industry will have to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2016, including a zero-flaring requirement at producing wells.

As part of that green agenda, B.C. wants to set new tailpipe emissions standards for new vehicles that will start in 2009 and offer a $2,000 tax break for hybrid vehicles.

"Effective immediately, B.C. will become the first jurisdiction in North America, if not the world, to require 100 per cent carbon sequestration for any coal-fired electricity project," the speech said.

The government will spend $25 million to encourage the commercialization of alternative energy sources.

B.C. also wants to move to contain what it calls "unplanned urban sprawl."

Existing homes and buildings will be offered incentives to retrofit them, while a new B.C. Green Building Code will be developed.

However, the throne speech addressed other parts of what the provincial government is calling its Pacific Leadership Agenda. Some other components:

  • To lead Canada in partnership with First Nations,
  • To increase affordable housing and reduce homelessness,
  • To improve quality, choice, and accountability in education and health care, and
  • To strengthen economic competitiveness by opening up Canada's Pacific Gateway.


Multiple protest groups gathered outside the legislature to make their voices heard.

Ken Wu of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee didn't sound impressed by the government's plan.

"The B.C. Liberals, under tremendous pressure, have occasionally squeezed out a few sickly brownish-green policies," he said. "But the point is that they're a long ways from being a truly environmental government."

The New Democrats called it hot air.

"We see these numbers for 2020. People want to see action now," Opposition Leader Carole James told reporters.

"I want to see some specifics, I want to see enforcement, I want to see teeth in these targets, and I didn't hear that in the throne speech today."

West Coast greening

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former action movie star turned Republican governor of California, has made climate change a recent priority.

"I am pleased that British Columbia has joined the fight against climate change. I am looking forward to meeting with Premier Campbell and working with British Columbia on this critical issue," he said in a statement.

Schwarzenegger has called for his state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. B.C.'s target is more aggressive.

The B.C. government plans to work with California and other west coast governments to tackle global warming, Campagnolo said.

Those plans include addressing the impact of climate change on ocean resources and working to clean up ports.

B.C. will propose working with Pacific governors from California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska to develop a joint environmental team.

The throne speech talked about anti-idling measures for transport trucks and establishing a "hydrogen highway" from California to Whistler, B.C., a major 2010 Winter Olympics venue.

Oregon wants to develop the strictest standards for greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions in the United States.

Washington recently established goals for fighting climate change and reducing imported fuel costs.

Alberta wants funding

In Alberta, Premier Ed Stelmach said his province needs more funding from Ottawa to fight greenhouse gas emissions.

"If Ottawa is looking at Alberta in terms of (being) a major emitter, then of course we need more than just per-capita funding," he told reporters in Edmonton on Tuesday.

In a lunch-time speech in Calgary, Stelmach said critics "can't have it both ways" by criticizing Alberta's big polluters without putting in cash for renewable energy projects or research and development to help cut emissions.

On Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his Canada Eco-Trust and Clean Air Fund.

While details weren't released, Harper announced $350 million of the $1.5 billion fund would go to Quebec, where a provincial election is anticipated for this spring.

The plan is expected to fund programs to fight both greenhouse gases and conventional pollutants.

Stelmach argued that Alberta needs more than the per capita funding because it is a major greenhouse gas emitter -- and a major contributor to the federal treasury.

"I'm just making the comparison that although Alberta is small in terms of its population, the job we have to do -- the task ahead of us -- is immense and we'd like to sit down and discuss this with the federal government,'' he said.

"If Alberta is the province that others are focused on in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and the intensity levels, then let's just work together and make it meaningful in terms of the capital investment.''

With files from CTV British Columbia and The Canadian Press