By Roy L Hales
The future of Vancouver’s new Green Building Rezoning Policy is already uncertain. As of this morning, there is an emissions cap on all new construction and buildings applying for rezoning. There are several ways developers “can meet the energy efficiency and emissions targets (50 per cent decrease in GHGs).” They can use “better insulation, thicker windows, and better design, as well as opting for renewable energy.” However the largest cause of the city’s emissions is natural gas and so Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals attack Vancouver’s attempt to limit emissions.
Christy Clark’s Liberals Attack Vancouver’s Attempt To Limit Emissions
British Columbia is in the midst of a provincial election.
According to Andrew Wilkinson, the Liberal candidate for Vancouver-Quilchena, if his party is reelected they will change the legislation that lets cities set up their own building codes.
He told reporters, “While we all agree that climate change must be addressed, banning natural gas from the City of Vancouver at a huge cost to residents is not the way to go … We’ve come to the conclusion the only way to deal with this situation is to repeal the city’s ban on natural gas.”
In response, the city of Vancouver issued a press release pointing out they are not banning the use of natural gas.
The Cornerstone Of Clark’s Energy Policy
However putting a cap on the city’s emissions will lead to a decrease in consumption of natural gas. The city’s Renewable Energy Strategy contains phrases like:
- ” … 70% of BC greenhouse gas emission sources, including the most common fuels like gasoline, diesel, propane, and natural gas.”1
- ” … Biomethane provides a ready opportunity to decarbonize space heat and hot water in buildings that currently use natural gas.”2
- “Enable the conversion of the Downtown and hospital steam systems from natural gas to renewable energy”3
Despite her pretence of being a climate leader, the cornerstone of Clark’s energy policy is developing fossil fuels. She once spoke of the province’s LNG sector as “a possible $1 trillion” opportunity. Most of the province’s fracking sites were developed under her watch. In return, the province’s fracking, gas pipeline and LNG companies have pumped $1,007,456 into the Liberal’s campaign chest since the last election.
FortisBC Applauds BC Liberal’s Decision
FortisBC applauds the BC Liberal’s decision. The company currently has 108,000 customers in Vancouver. They are afraid that some of the city’s older buildings will now have to curtail their emissions by as much as 70% to qualify for rezoning. The new regulations “will effectively eliminate the use of natural gas for space and water heating in rezoned buildings.”
“We didn’t know (the BC Liberal announcement) was coming down the pipe, so we are surprised but it’s encouraging that it’s being talked about. Customers would again have the choice of natural gas and natural gas is one-third the price of electricity, so if the policies come into effect customer energy costs would increase,” said Jason Wolfe, the company’s director of energy solutions.
Fortis’ Ties To The BC Liberal Government
Fortis has several connections to the BC Liberals. The government recently awarded Fortis a $520 million pipeline contract to the Woodfibre LNG site. Once it is operational the pipeline will provide 10 full-time jobs. Fortis donated $210,7034 to the party’s campaign chest between 2008-15. A study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that over a seven-year period, Fortis’ lobbyists contacted government ministries and agencies 2,377 times.5 They also contacted several key members in the Clark government, such as the Premier and key ministers like Rich Coleman, Bill Bennet and Mary Polak.6 One of Fortis’ senior managers, Gord Schoberg, is now Environment Minister Mary Polak’s campaign manager.
A company spokesperson said that Schoberg is free to whatever he wishes in his spare time.
The Threat Of Becoming 100% Renewable
FortisBC is not the only fossil fuel company concerned about Vancouver’s goal of becoming a 100% Renewable City by 2050.
There is a growing movement among the World’s cities. British Columbia’s capital city has already joined it. Lower Mainland cities like Burnaby, New Westminster and the City of North Vancouver could follow suit.
The idea of actually limiting global warming to 2 degrees might catch on!
This translates into lost revenues for the province’s fossil fuel sector and probably weakens the government that represents them.
The BC Liberals have already scuttled the province’s 2020 emission’s target.
Matt Horne, a former member of BC’s Climate Leadership Team who is now Vancouver’s Climate Policy Manager, tweeted:
- City of Vancouver, RENEWABLE CITY STRATEGY 2015-2050, p 17 ↩
- Ibid , p 28 ↩
- Ibid , p 30 ↩
- Nicolas Graham, Shannon Daub and Bill Carroll, Mapping Political Influence: Political donations and lobbying by the fossil fuel industry in BC, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives & the Corporate Mapping Project, p 15 ↩
- Ibid, p 19 ↩
- Ibid, p 20 ↩