Over the last 25 years or so, British Columbia’s population has grown by a third, from 3.7 million in 1996 to 5 million in 2021. During this time, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been flat (Source: BC Provincial GHG Inventory 1990-2019), rangebound between 62 and 69 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. More recently, emissions have resumed their growth trajectory, growing 2.5% annually from 2015 to 2019 (the last year of available data). There is nothing in this data suggesting that B.C. is on a net zero pathway by 2050; to think otherwise is to delude oneself.
Quite simply, changing the trajectory would require a seismic shift in how we live and do things, comparable to the industrialization of developed economies such as Canada, U.S. and Europe during the first half of the 20th century. Bike lanes and low flow shower heads just aren’t going to do it.
So what might do it? Electrification – of everything. For many of us locally, we would have to be convinced that electric heat was cheaper than the propane and wood many currently use. We would have to be convinced that an electric vehicle will have the torque to haul our loads and the range to not leave us stranded on a dark road as we make our way home in the deep of winter. BC Hydro will have to construct many more electricity generation sites, most likely hydroelectric, with their own environmental impacts. And no, swapping LED lights for incandescent will not have us avoid this fate. Energy efficiency will help, increased residential density will help, but they will not drive the change.
What is needed? More engineers and technologists to design the changes and more tradespeople to build the changes, with strong provincial support for education and investment. The importance of local elections in all this? Not so much.
Fairmont Hot Springs