Burlington Northern Santa Fe train hauls one of many daily loads of thermal coal from Wyoming along White Rock beach, for export to Asia power plants. Shipments through B.C. ports jumped after California, Oregon and Washington stopped shipments from their ports. (Michael Chu/Flickr)

B.C. VIEWS: Politicians grasp at straws, avoid climate policy reality

It doesn’t matter what parties offer in the fall Canadian election

Sorry to interrupt your peaceful, smoke-free summer, but the dark clouds of confusion and contradiction gathering on the horizon are the first signs of a looming federal election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set the tone at a recent $1,500-a-plate party fundraiser in Vancouver, after his official business of announcing partial funding for 10 new electric buses for Victoria – in 2021. Yes, the prime ministerial jet, motorcade and all that were deployed across the country to announce the latest bold move to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At the swanky dinner, Trudeau pledged to avoid divisive and negative politics, and warned about those bad Conservatives who are fighting his national carbon tax.

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario are headed for the Supreme Court of Canada in an effort to set their own policies. Not B.C. though. The John Horgan NDP government is battling Trudeau’s oil pipeline project, but not his $20-per-tonne minimum national carbon tax.

B.C.’s carbon tax is already twice that high, and Horgan’s NDP is currently in favour of raising it more, while at the same time grilling petroleum companies about the rising cost of gasoline.

“Here in B.C., you really matter,” Trudeau assured well-heeled Liberal Party donors in his drama-teacher style. “You are a province of people who get it. Who understand that the way to positive growth is to invest in the environment.”

With due respect to our dear leader, I doubt that B.C. residents “get it,” if “it” is the logic of the federal government’s strategy to combat what is now ritually referred to as the “climate emergency.” I suspect this is one reason why Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna have been trying to change the channel to plastic bags and drinking straws.

Token bans on plastic items here are as unlikely to stop the vast outpouring of ocean pollution from rivers in China, India and Vietnam as a few electric buses are to stop the huge and increasing use of carbon-emitting fuels in Asia and around the world.

RELATED: Too many coal trains through White Rock, resident says

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Indeed, B.C.’s current $40-per-tonne carbon tax isn’t lowering emissions here. They have continued to increase since a recession-induced dip ended in 2010. Granted, per-capita emissions are declining, but that’s largely a result of urbanization and industrial struggles.

Here’s a sample of the international scene. Reuters news agency reported this spring that China added 194 million tonnes of coal mining capacity in 2018, bringing its total capacity to 3.53 billion tonnes by the end of that year. To put that in perspective, Canada’s total coal production is about 63 million tonnes, meaning China’s expansion for 2018 alone is more than three Canadas.

China’s People’s Daily reported last week that its Menghua Railway is due for completion in October. The country’s longest line at 1,837 km, it is dedicated to carrying 200 million tonnes of coal each year from Inner Mongolia to Jianxi in eastern China.

Closer to home, the Port of Vancouver reports that it shipped 37.6 million tonnes of coal in 2018, with India being one of the biggest markets. That’s mostly metallurgical coal, but thermal coal shipments to India started in 2018, after U.S. west coast ports refused to ship it.

As our federal election begins to unfold, you will hear about other unlikely plans from the Conservatives, NDP and Greens to meet Canada’s solemn 2015 commitment in Paris to reduce emissions. That’s the commitment developed by the Stephen Harper government that remains Trudeau’s target.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


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