Political Challenges and Opportunities to Climate Change Mitigation: A View from the Front Lines

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:00 PM
Andrew J Weaver, Univ of Victoria, Earth and Ocean Sciences, Victoria, BC, Canada
Subsequent to the release of the 2007 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Province of British Columbia in Canada became an international leader in the development and implementation of innovative climate change mitigation policies. These include, but are not limited to, the 2008 Greenhouse Gas Reductions Target Act, the 2008 Carbon Tax Act and the 2010 Clean Energy Act. British Columbia’s Cleantech sector quickly responded to, and thrived as a result of, the signal sent by government to the market. But with a change in Premier in 2011 came a change in priorities. A number of the previous initiatives have either been weakened or no longer followed through with as the Province sets its vision of being a major exporter of Liquified Natural Gas.

As a member of the British Columbia Climate Action Team set up by Premier Gordon Campbell in 2007 to provide advice to government on a variety of policy-related matters, I was fortunate to be able to watch first hand as the Province aggressively moved towards reducing its Greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than stand on the sidelines as the government lost its direction on the climate file I chose to run with the BC Green Party in the 2013 provincial election. I was subsequently elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly representing the constituents of Oak Bay Gordon Head.

While science can and should inform policy deliberations, in and of itself, science cannot and should not prescribe policy outcomes. Whether or not we deal with today’s challenge of climate change boils down to a question of intergeneration equity. Does the present generation owe anything to future generations in terms of the quality of the environment that they inherit? Many of today’s elected decision-makers are focused on short-term decision-making. Yet those who will be affected by the consequences of these decisions are not part of the decision making process — hence the political conundrum.

In this presentation I detail some of the political opportunities and challenges associated with efforts to ensure political decision-makers consider the long term consequences of their climate and energy policy while balancing a myriad other immediately-pressing issues.