The Province of British Columbia

Population: 4.61 million (2014)

GDP: CAN$230 billion (2013)

Country: Canada

Total GHG emissions per year: 64 MT/Co2e (2013)

GHG emissions/capita per year: 13.5 t/co2e (2013)

The western-most of Canada’s provinces, BC has a land area of 944,735 square kilometers, roughly equivalent to the size of France and the United Kingdom combined. 45% of this land base is mountainous, 50% is forested, and the remaining 5% is arable. The topography and climate of the province are extremely varied, including glaciers and high mountain ranges, coastal rainforests, deep fjords, long river valleys, fertile deltas, extensive rangeland, arid desert regions, and densely populated urban areas. The province is endowed with abundant natural resources, including minerals, oil and gas, timber, fish and some of North America’s richest farmland. The economy is highly diversified, with approximately 15% of GDP coming from natural resources and manufacturing, and the balance from a range of service sectors.

Almost 3 million of BC’s 4.6 million people are concentrated in Greater Vancouver and on southern Vancouver Island, in the south west corner of the province. This economically and culturally diverse region has a relatively mild climate, well developed infrastructure, and excellent transportation links to the Asia-Pacific, the west coast of the United States, and the rest of Canada.

The varied geography of the province has resulted in BC experiencing a broad range of climate change effects, including glacier melt, forest degradation from new pests and forest fires, loss of agricultural output due to drought, and social and economic disruptions from floods and landslides.

Over the past decade, BC has emerged as a global leader on climate change, introducing ambitious and legally binding GHG reduction targets, and a legislated commitment to carbon neutral government operations. A range of specific measures have been put in place to help us fulfil these commitments, including the introduction of a comprehensive and revenue neutral carbon tax.

  • Key targets/successes

    Climate policy and GHG emissions reductions targets:

    British Columbia has legislated GHG emission reduction targets of 33% below 2007 levels for 2020 and 80% below 2007 levels for 2050. The province reached its 2012 interim emissions reduction target of 6% below 2007 levels. 

  • Current activities

    Flagship initiative

    Introduced in 2008, British Columbia’s (B.C.) revenue neutral carbon tax remains the most comprehensive and ambitious of its kind in North America, establishing a model for other jurisdictions around the world. B.C.’s carbon tax applies to virtually all fossil fuels, including: gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, propane, and home heating fuel, covering over 72% of total emissions. The carbon tax started at a rate based on $10 per ton ($CAN) of carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions, and rose $5 each year over four years, reaching $30 per ton in 2012. The revenue generated by this tax is returned to individuals and businesses through reductions in other taxes. Since the introduction of the tax, independent research has shown that fuel use per capita has fallen 17.4% between 2008 and 2012. B.C., while GDP has risen at above the average for other Canadian provinces and territories. B.C. remains committed to a strong price on carbon, and works to encourage other jurisdictions to adopt similar measures.

    Renewable energy

    B.C. has legislation requiring 93% or more clean and renewable electricity generation. In November 2013, the Province approved B.C. Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan that shows that B.C. Hydro, the largest electricity utility in the province, is at 96% renewable electricity generation. In December 2014, the Province made a final investment decision to develop Site C, a 1,100 MW hydro-electric facility on the Peace River—the third facility on the Peace River, demonstrating B.C.’s commitment to clean power. Energy utilities are required to pursue demand-side measures (DSM) up to the cost of new clean generation resources before purchasing new generation. B.C. Hydro is required to meet 66% of new demand through DSM by 2020, and B.C. Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan shows B.C. Hydro plans to meet 78% of new demand through DSM.

    Energy efficiency

    B.C. has adopted energy efficiency standards aligned with national and regional leaders for small battery charging systems (e.g., cordless phones, cell phones, power tools, laptops, and golf carts), clothes washers, dishwashers and residential gas-fired furnaces. Twenty-nine per cent of LEED Gold building projects registered in Canada since 2007 are in British Columbia, and all new public sector buildings must be built to LEED-gold standard or better. B.C. was the first jurisdiction in Canada to adopt both the new National Building Code energy-efficiency requirements for housing and small buildings and the National Energy Code for Buildings, which applies to large buildings (2013).

    Clean transportation

    By building the key infrastructure, increasing the adoption of cleaner fuels, and encouraging the transition to clean energy vehicles, BC is moving toward building a transportation system that reduces distances driven and is powered by clean energy.

    • Clean Energy Vehicles: In 2011, the British Columbia Government launched their $14.3 million CAD Clean Energy Vehicle (CEV) Program to provide incentives for eligible clean energy vehicles and deployment of charging point infrastructure for these vehicles. The CEV Program has provided British Columbians with more affordable clean energy transportation solutions, and B.C. leads Canada in clean energy vehicle sales per capita and has the largest electric vehicle charging and hydrogen fueling networks in Canada. In 2015, BC renewed the CEV program to continue to encourage adoption of clean energy vehicles.
    • Low Carbon Fuel Standards: Adopted in 2008, B.C.’s  Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Requirements Regulation targets a 10% decrease in carbon intensity of transport fuels sold in B.C. by 2020, and 5% renewable content in gasoline (4% in diesel).
    • Alternative Fuels: The Province implemented the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Clean Energy) Regulation in 2012 that permits utilities to offer incentives for the purchase of natural gas vehicles and to make investments in liquefied natural gas and compressed natural gas fuelling infrastructure in sectors such as medium and heavy duty on-road transportation, marine, mining, and locomotive support. 

    Urban environment and smart cities

    B.C. can only meet its greenhouse gas reduction commitments with the help of its cities and communities. Over 180 local governments (96% of the total) have signed a voluntary agreement with the government of B.C. through the Climate Action Charter. By signing the Climate Action Charter, local governments commit to: working toward carbon neutrality in their corporate operations; measure their community energy and emissions; and create complete, compact, more energy efficient rural and urban communities. To support their commitments, local government signatories that report on their progress each year are granted the same amount paid in carbon taxes on their corporate operations.

    Waste management

    B.C.’s Landfill Gas Management Regulation phases in requirements for landfill gas capture to reduce potent methane emissions and optimize landfill gas recovery. Municipal landfills generating 1,000 tonnes or more of annual waste are required to install landfill gas management systems. The Carbon Neutral Government offset program is also encouraging landfills to install new capture systems ahead of legislated requirements. As a result, methane capture projects at Prince George and Salmon Arm landfills are already reducing emissions by about 30,000 tons CO2e per year.


    Preparing for the impacts of climate change requires coordination between all levels of government and the private sector. To assist in these efforts, the B.C. Government has developed a comprehensive adaptation strategy that encompasses health and safety, public infrastructure, community planning and natural resources. B.C.’s Sea Level Rise Primer is one component of this strategy, and has been recognized as a model to assist communities in incorporating sea level rise into coastal flood plain mapping, sea dike design and land-use planning.

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