BC’s 2040 vehicle emissions “targets” vs something useful..

Yesterday’s news was that “B.C. introduces law to require cars, trucks sold by 2040 be zero emission.” That looks good on paper, but is really not much help as far as fighting climate change in any meaningful way is concerned. But it could be.

There is more to it, of course, than just “zero emissions by 2040.” The draft Zero-Emissions Vehicle Act can be found here. It’s just gone through first reading, so there could be many changes yet. Andrew Weaver, leader of the Provincial Green Party has an informative post about it here. Weaver points out that the bill legislates that (in s. 7):

“(a) in 2025 and in each subsequent year, at least 10% of all new light-duty motor vehicles sold or leased in British Columbia must be zero-emission vehicles;

(b) in 2030 and in each subsequent year, at least 30% of all new light-duty motor vehicles sold or leased in British Columbia must be zero-emission vehicles;

(c) in 2040 and in each subsequent year, 100% of all new light-duty motor vehicles sold or leased in British Columbia must be zero-emission vehicles.”

So, there is not just one target in 2040, but ratcheting up targets along the way. The problem is – they do not start until 2025, after this government’s current mandate has ended, and they do not ratchet up fast enough, relying on the most significant change after 2030 and at 2040.

To put it another way, it means car makers can largely continue to make vehicles with the same very low emission standards they have now, until 2025, and only 10% of new vehicle sales must be Zero Emission from then to 2030, the date marking the “end of life as we know it,” according to the UN. So this Act will result in very little change to BC’s emissions before 2030, and the UN has told us we need to reduce emissions by 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 or face catastrophic consequences.

What would be useful? Well, next year is 2020. If 2040 is the target year, that’s 20 years. 100%, divided by 20 years, is five. So the amount could ratchet up by five percent per year, starting in 2020. The same end, but the requirement would come into effect almost immediately, and increase steadily and evenly. And it must not be a “target,” but mandatory.

Ie -in 2020 car manufacturers can only sell in BC if 5% of their cars released in the BC market are zero emissions. PERIOD. In 2021 – 10%, 2022 -15%, 2024 – 25%.

Regarding the target/mandatory question, section 7 of the Act, the part quoted above, starts like this, “The following targets are established for the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in British Columbia:…”. The word “targets” is key here. What does that mean?

It’s not in the definition section, so it’s not clear from the direct language of the Act what it means. It helps a bit to see that s. 8 mandates the Province make annual “Provincial targets reports.” So, it seems like the intention is that there will be reports on whether or not the targets are met. Which seems to imply that in fact “targets” mean just that – something we are aiming for.

Well, one might respond, maybe it’s not possible to make it mandatory, or a clear prohibition. Maybe. Except then there’s section 9:

Prohibition in 2040 and subsequent years

9  On or after January 1, 2040, a person must not make a consumer sale of a light-duty motor vehicle that is not a zero-emission vehicle.

So, we have 15 years of low “targets”, starting in 2025, and then a clear prohibition in 2040. Ten years after the key date given to us by the UN.

Of course, we all understand that we live in a world beholden to the oil and gas industry, and that to speak or act against them in any immediate and impactful way is political suicide, and that we have come to a point where we have to rely on children to speak the truth. And in that context this is a pretty good try.

It will, however, make very little difference in preventing the worst impacts of climate change in relation to the tipping points we face by 2030, and therefore allows extreme and irreversible climate change that will seriously alter, or ruin (or end), our children’s lives. We must try harder.

As one suggestion, summarised from above; make it mandatory instead of “targets,” and ratchet it up by 5% per year, starting in 2020. That would be a good start.

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