Should climate change be part of the environmental assessment process?

climate change and healthGLOBE-Net, September 15, 2015 – The Environmental Law Center of the University of Victoria has raised an interesting question about whether to include climate change impacts in BC’s environmental assessment process.

Prepared on behalf of Sierra Club, BC, Blind Spot: The Failure to Consider Climate in British Columbia’s Environmental Assessments, flags profound flaws in the current environmental assessment regime that could actually worsen climate change.

Currently, environmental assessments may consider emissions from trucks operating at a BC coal mine, but they ignore the much bigger problem created when the coal is actually burned in Asia. Assessments also do not seriously consider the problem of climate change impacts when assessing projects like the Petronas LNG proposal, which in itself could make it impossible to meet provincial emissions targets.

Instead, argues the Centre, BC should consider greenhouse gases produced when BC fossil fuels are burned outside of the province, and BC greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets should be incorporated when assessing new projects.

The report, which was submitted to the BC government, also suggests the province apply a “climate test” when assessing projects with climate change impacts.

The report makes six specific recommendations for fundamental reform of BC’s environmental assessments process and urges the province to follow the clear trend of other jurisdictions, such as the European Union, Australia and Washington State, in bringing climate considerations into environmental assessments.

1) Implement a GHG Emissions Threshold as an Additional Mandatory EA Trigger

2) Tie a Project’s Expected GHG Emissions to BC’s Legislated Reduction Targets

3) Examine Full Life Cycle Emissions

4) Consider Alternatives to the Project and a “Zero Option”

5) Clearly Define “Significance” from a Climate Perspective

6) Set a General Rule to Mitigate GHGs

The report concludes it is important to note that there are compelling economic reasons to apply a comprehensive climate test. A growing body of research questions whether the fiscal policy of investing in longterm fossil fuel infrastructure is actually sound, because the carbon economy may well founder.

If G7 countries follow through on current commitments, the carbon economy will no longer exist by the end of the century – and likely much sooner


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