Paris 2015 – Cop 21 and “BC Climate Leadership”

Premier Clark is off to Paris to tout B.C.’s “climate leadership”, while acknowledging that the province will miss it’s legislated greenhouse emissions targets for 2020.

When Premier Clark announced the B.C. LNG Emissions Law in 2014, as a smokescreen to cover the potentially atmospheric rise in BC carbon emissions from new LNG plants. Our 2020 targets would be challenged but not beyond our reach. Environment Minister Polak said increased LNG production will test carbon emission targets, which have legislated at one-third below 2007 levels by 2020, and the province will also consider cutting emissions in sectors such as transportation and construction.

“It is going to be a challenge, no question,” she said. “Sure, it’s going to be really difficult but it means we’re going to have to be drilling down more and more on the everyday things that we can do to reduce GHG emissions.”

Last week with the release of the Climate Leadership Report and acknowledging the news that BC will miss it’s 2020 target Minister Polak confirmed that, “We always knew it was going to be tough to meet”.  Merran Smith, Climate Leadership Team member and Executive Director of Clean Energy Canada, suggested that the targets will be missed because, “we stopped putting in place any new climate action for the past few years.” So while we were supposed to be “drilling down”, Polak just backed off any new climate action.

Today as the Premier heads to Paris, even without any LNG deals producing increased carbon, we are missing our 2020 target. To come: “the Pembina Institute estimates that even the lower end of that (LNG) development scenario would produce a staggering 73 million tonnes of carbon pollution per year by 2020.” Yikes! That’s more than double our current level of carbon in the province.

Christy Clark Selling LNG

One can only wonder if British Columbia’s interests in slowing climate change are best served by Clarks trip to Paris or staying home and implementing the recomendations of her Climate Leadership Team.

Premier Clark has said since day one that by providing liquid natural gas to the world we can clean up the worlds air. “We’re going to have a really clean product and we are going to help China wean itself off coal.” Trouble is in the long term that will only mean replacing one demon carbon with another.

The U.S. Department of Energy talks about research from the science journal Nature investigating the long term effects of natural gas potentially displacing coal and low-emitting energy sources over the long term.

Because natural gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal, many people hoped the recent natural gas boom could help slow climate change — and according to government analyses, natural gas did contribute partially to a decline in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions between 2007 and 2012. But in the long run, according to this study, a global abundance of inexpensive natural gas would compete with all energy sources — not just higher-emitting coal, but also lower-emitting nuclear and renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar. Inexpensive natural gas would also accelerate economic growth and expand overall energy use.

  • Natural gas replacing coal would reduce carbon emissions. But due to its lower cost, natural gas would also replace some low-carbon energy, such as renewable or nuclear energy. Overall changes result in a smaller reduction than expected due to natural gas replacing these other, low-carbon sources. In a sense, natural gas would become a larger slice of the energy pie.
  • Abundant, less expensive natural gas would lower energy prices across the board, leading people to use more energy overall. In addition, inexpensive energy stimulates the economy, which also increases overall energy use. Consequently, the entire energy pie gets bigger.
  • The main component of natural gas, methane, is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. During production and distribution, some methane inevitably escapes into the atmosphere. The researchers considered both high and low estimates for this so-called fugitive methane. Even at the lower end, fugitive methane adds to climate change.

2015 Paris Climate Conference – COP21 vs. Coal

“Coal will remain a safe bet for investors for decades to come as Asia drives future demand, says head of World Coal Association, Benjamin Sporton.”

The Asia Asthma Development Board said China has the world’s highest mortality rate from asthma.

The Hidustan Times reports that 13 of the worlds top 20 polluted cities are in India.

While Obama is reducing the amounts of coal exported from the U.S., Australian exports are increasing. Reuters reports that more than $3 billion has been invested in Australian coal projects  in the 18 months prior to August 2015.

As the latest round of who’s who in the World of climate change arrive in Paris, eyes will be on China and the US.  But maybe this time the deadline needs greater imminence and the target needs more focus – on coal.  With black-eyes on China, India, Malaysia and Australia.

Let me share with you just how bad coal is vs other fuels…

Pounds of CO2 emitted per million British thermal units (Btu) of energy for various fuels:Carbon loadsNow for the first of our Black Eye Awards lets take a look at the top exporters of Coal in the world

Coal Exports

Wow look at these bad boys! We are all anxious to see what Prime Minister Trudeau will come up with at Paris and of course the worlds media will cover Obama, but what about Joko Widodo and Malcolm Turnbull?

Where does all the coal go?

“I said ‘mama I come to the valley of the rich
Myself to sell’
She said ‘son this is the road to hell” – Chris Rea

Ian Barnes of the IEA Clean Coal Centre talks about how HELE technology will reduce emissions from coal fired power plants in the future. HELE means high- efficiency, low-emissions…China HELE Emissions

India HELE emissions

The point Ian is trying to make here is that by providing “clean coal” to countries shackled by “energy poverty” we are helping them advance economically. Really? Even with the introduction of the new technology, the most probable scenario is growth of coal fired plants in China and India and continued growth of carbon emissions until at least 2035. Notice how Ian has both countries carbon emissions peaking at 2035.

We Canadians have high hopes for Catherine McKenna to deliver for us at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, but unless the world is prepared to do a lot more about reducing coal as a source of electricity, Indonesia, Australia and Russia all come to the valley of the rich, coal to sell. Yup, you can bet this is the road to hell.

Sources for information:

Upgrading the Efficiency of the World’s Coal Fleet to Reduce CO2 Emissions

US Energy Information Administration/International Energy Statistics