Environment group sues B.C. government alleging its climate plan fails to adequately address emission targets

Tiffany Crawford

Mar. 31, 2022

Sierra Club B.C., represented by environmental law charity Ecojustice, alleges the provincial government has not provided plans to achieve emissions targets past 2030.

A B.C. environmental group is suing the B.C. government alleging it has failed to provide a detailed plan to meet its own climate change targets.

Sierra Club B.C., represented by environmental law charity Ecojustice, filed the suit Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court against the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy for not providing details of how the province plans to achieve emissions targets past 2030.


The Climate Change Accountability Act requires the government to publish annual reports on how it plans to make progress toward all its climate targets. B.C.’s targets are for provincewide GHG emissions to be at least 40 per cent less than 2007 levels by 2030, at least 60 per cent less by 2040, and 80 per cent less by 2050.

But Sierra Club alleges the 2021 accountability report falls woefully short by failing to include a plan for the 2025, 2040 and 2050 climate targets. It also omits the government’s plan to cut carbon pollution from the oil and gas sector, fuelled mainly by the province’s natural gas sector.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment emailed a brief statement in response to the suit Thursday:


“We are proud of our continent leading CleanBC plan. We are not in a position to comment on the specifics of this matter as the issue may be before the courts.”


British Columbia has approved the construction and operation of two liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects through the environmental assessment process. Another three LNG projects are in the environmental assessment process and are being considered for development in B.C., according to court documents.


The suit contends that all of these projects will impact B.C.’s ability to meet the oil and gas sector target, as well as its 2040 and 2050 targets.


The petitioners are seeking declaratory relief regarding whether Environment Minister George Heyman failed to meet his statutory obligations under the Act, and/or quashing and setting aside the 2021 report.


“Climate change is destroying lives and livelihoods in British Columbia now. After years of missed targets and broken promises, this law was meant to herald a new era of transparency and accountability in climate action. Instead, the government has failed to show us how it will meet its climate targets and broken its own laws in the process,” said Alan Andrews, climate program director at Ecojustice, in a statement.


Andrews alleges that the ministry’s failure undermines the B.C. government’s climate leadership credentials and risks locking the province into a high carbon future.


“The public has a right to know if their government has a real plan to tackle the climate crisis,” he said.


In February, the global authority on climate science warned that the climate breakdown is accelerating and the window to avert catastrophe is rapidly closing. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report said the world faces unavoidable climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5 C and even temporarily exceeding this warming will cause widespread destruction, including catastrophic loss of human and animal life and infrastructure.


The federal government unveiled a federal climate strategy on Tuesday that is in line with the emissions-reduction ambitions of B.C.’s plan. It revealed that Canada’s oil and gas industry will have to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 42 per cent from existing levels by 2030 if the country is to meet its new targets.


Sierra Club says B.C.’s plan to meet the oil and gas sector target is crucial to ensure that “one of the most polluting sectors of the economy” does its fair share towards meeting provincial targets.


Greenhouse-gas emissions in B.C. rose to 68.6 million tonnes in 2019 from 66 million tonnes in 2017, according to the climate accountability report. The government estimates that its CleanBC climate actions will reduce those emissions to 55.2 million tonnes in 2030.




—with a file from Derrick Penner