LNG industry a key challenge for British Columbia’s new climate council

The Globe and Mail | Ian Bailey | October 24 2017

How to reconcile Premier John Horgan's desire to grow B.C.'s liquefied natural gas industry with his Environment Minister's pledge to hold the line on greenhouse gas emissions will be a key challenge for a new advisory council the government has appointed to ensure B.C. meets its climate-change goals.

Merran Smith, a council co-chair, says the group is keeping an open mind on the issue, but reducing emissions from the industry will be a requirement.

"The bottom line is we have to reduce those emissions," said Ms. Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada.

"We need to look at LNG and how and if it can fit into B.C.'s carbon budget, but I don't want us to just be focusing on LNG. … We have very little LNG being produced at this point. We also need to focus on transportation and buildings and other industrial sectors," Ms. Smith said.

Some have said LNG operations would boost levels of B.C. greenhouse gases. Ms. Smith said some technologies could reduce those emissions, but it is too early for any broad conclusions.

"That's a good question to ask us a couple months from now," Ms. Smith said.

Energy Minister Michelle Mungall said in a weekend statement that the NDP government believes B.C.'s fledgling LNG sector "has an important role to play."

Over the weekend, Mr. Horgan toured the industrial site in Kitimat where Royal Dutch Shell PLC is leading a consortium that hopes to develop infrastructure and a terminal to export LNG from northwestern British Columbia to markets in Asia.

The project would cost up to $40-billion and employ 7,500 workers for construction. In opposition, Mr. Horgan was pointedly critical of the BC Liberals' claims about the potential of the LNG sector.

Critics have said the Shell-led LNG Canada venture would seriously undermine the province's targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Clean-energy think tank Pembina Institute has warned that to be on track with B.C.'s climate targets, only a couple of small LNG terminals are plausible.

Karen Tam Wu, acting regional director for the Pembina Institute and a member of the council, said on Monday that past modelling indicated that LNG projects could bump up greenhouse gases.

She said other job opportunities should be considered in B.C. beyond LNG. "We are a province built on resource extraction, but we know this government is also interested in looking at high-value forestry and other emerging economies that are undiscovered."

In a statement, David Keane, president and CEO of the industry association the BC LNG Alliance, said members are mindful of environmental issues and that he hopes the new council will recognize that the global LNG demand will increase by 50 per cent by 2040 as many countries look to meet their climate goals with an affordable and reliable source of energy. He said the industry is working towards making B.C. "a leader in clean LNG."

"B.C. can help meet that demand with some of the lowest-emission LNG anywhere in the world," Mr. Keane said.

Environment Minister George Heyman announced the new council on Monday. He said the NDP's conditions for developing the province's LNG sector include respect for B.C.'s air, land and water, and meeting climate commitments.

"This is a challenging, challenging issue to reduce our carbon pollution," Mr. Heyman said. "I am confident we can meet goals and develop B.C's resources in a responsible way that meets our climate commitments."

The advisory council will advise the government on actions and policies that can contribute to carbon pollution reductions and optimize opportunities for sustainable economic development and job creation. The panel is to meet quarterly.

"They represent people with expertise, with knowledge, who can speak to us about the opportunities and impacts from the sectors they represent," Mr. Heyman said in introducing the group.

Marcia Smith, the senior vice-president of sustainability and external affairs for Teck Resources Limited, is the other co-chair. The 18 other members include the mayor of Smithers, the climate policy manager for the City of Vancouver, the mayor of the District of Tofino, as well as First Nations representatives, and Susan Yurkovich, the president and chief executive officer of the Council of Forest Industries. There are also two ex-officio members from the B.C. government.

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