The Suncor oil sands facility seen from a helicopter near Fort McMurray, Alta., Tuesday, July 10, 2012. The insurance industry is grappling with whether to continue supporting fossil fuels in the face of the climate change threat. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The Suncor oil sands facility seen from a helicopter near Fort McMurray, Alta., Tuesday, July 10, 2012. The insurance industry is grappling with whether to continue supporting fossil fuels in the face of the climate change threat. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

LETTER: Climate crisis must be at the forefront of all government policy

‘The coming two decades will not look like the last two’

Open letter to Premier John Horgan and Cabinet:

As the Fraser Valley and other parts of B.C. experience yet more heat records shattered, record wildfires and choke on hazardous levels of smoke, one might expect your government to be doing everything possible to tackle the climate crisis.

However, BC Hydro’s draft 20-year power strategy falls woefully short of what is needed. It is clear that BC Hydro – which is a Crown corporation – will not be a climate leader without clear guidance from you. Their draft integrated resource plan (IRP) characterized as “a 20th-century plan for the 21st century” fails to equip us with the tools needed to address the climate crisis. The plan does not align with the B.C. government’s own legislated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets, nor with CleanBC.

BC Hydro, the largest producer of clean energy in B.C., could make or break our success in addressing the huge impacts of climate change as experienced this summer – up to 75 per cent ruined Fraser Valley berry crops, deadly heat, hazardous smoke, thousands evacuated, and millions spent fighting fires.

And that was in early August.

The draft IRP lays out two vastly different scenarios for the future of our province. BC Hydro’s choice, the Base Resource Plan, is not compatible with meeting provincial GHG targets. However, its contingency “Accelerated Scenario” would provide the energy needed for the province to kick its fossil fuel addiction and make good on its claims of climate leadership.

BC Hydro has failed to consider the increased electricity demand coming from the exponential growth in electric vehicles (EV) and the switch to electric heating. BC Hydro’s own survey indicates that two-thirds of British Columbians plan to buy an EV in the next several years. The provincial government is encouraging homeowners to switch to electric heat pumps, which are more efficient than natural gas, and are in great demand as they also work as air conditioners. Climate models show unequivocally that summers will continue to get hotter and smokier. We need only look to this summer’s rush on air conditioners during the heatwave that killed over 500 people to predict an increased electrical demand.

The Accelerated Scenario would give us a fighting chance of meeting B.C.’s climate targets. However, this plan still falls short in terms of climate resiliency. Local, renewable energy systems would mitigate the risk of wildfires cutting off power to an entire community, as when a fire that cut through a transmission line to West Kelowna threatened over 60,000 customers. This resiliency will become even more important as we increasingly rely on electricity for electric transportation and heating.

The coming two decades will not look like the last two. The climate crisis must be put at the forefront of all policy if we are to rise to the greatest challenge of our time. This urgency was reiterated with stark clarity in the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. We ask you to require that BC Hydro’s revised plan assumes we meet our legislated targets, aligns with CleanBC goals, and considers climate resiliency for our communities.

Sarah Katya Kirschmann, Laura Sacks, Tim Cooper, Versha Oza

BC Climate Alliance

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