Spectra Energy natural gas processing plant near Fort Nelson, one of B.C.’s largest single sources of greenhouse gases. Fuel use for road transportation is the largest source. (Black Press files)

B.C. greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase

Petroleum, road transport improved efficiency in 2017

B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions increased again in 2017, despite reduced carbon dioxide intensity from key sources including oil and gas refining and road transportation.

The B.C. environment ministry released its latest data Monday, reporting a 1.7 per cent increase over 2016 in carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. After accounting for one million tonnes of carbon offsets from forest management projects, net emissions were calculated at 64.5 million tonnes for the year.

The environment ministry reports that emissions were reduced in oil and gas extraction, road transport, electricity and heat production. Sectors with increases included manufacturing, off-road transport, residential and agriculture.

B.C.’s strong economy and increasing population work against reductions in greenhouse gas intensity, with 251 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent produced for every million dollars of gross domestic product in 2017. That’s a reduction of 2.5 per cent in intensity, showing improved efficiency.

Evironment Minister George Heyman said the government’s CleanBC measures, requiring less carbon-intensive fuels and increasing building efficiency and electric vehicle use, were not in place to influence the 2017 data.

That was the year that the NDP government replaced the former B.C. Liberal government, which had gone five years without increasing the province’s carbon tax, which could also have improved B.C.’s results, Heyman said.

RELATED: B.C. carbon tax increases to $40 per tonne for 2019

RELATED: B.C. carbon tax revenues go toward home upgrades

The official B.C. total does not include the effect of a record year for area burned by wildfires in 2017. The provincial data show wildfire emissions for the year of 176,550 tonnes, almost three times total emissions from the officially measured sources. For 2016, the wildfire emissions were 12,500 tonnes.

Heyman said B.C.’s carbon tax measurement conforms to international standards, which do not include measuring forest fire activity because it is beyond human control.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said the province’s CleanBC plan, which he developed along with Premier John Horgan, is having an effect, but it’s not enough.

“Our individual carbon footprint per British Columbian barely comes in under our neighbours to the south, by a measly 12 per cent,” Weaver said. “These numbers show us that we are not the concerned environmental stewards that we think we are, and it is because we have had governments that fail to regulate industry and fail to implement a vision for a new, green economy rooted in sustainable practices.”


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