Wow. Just wow.
The B.C. government is trying to out-green California with a sweeping strategy unveiled Tuesday to fight global warming by cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions from everything from cars and industry to the daily energy consumption of ordinary people.
As far as I can tell, Campbell’s government looked at each of the recent advances in California’s climate policy—the emission goals, the broad authority to develop a cap and trade system, the vehicle emission standards, policies on electric power—and tried to take each one a step further.
Take, for example, the issue of coal-fired power plants. California has vowed that new electricity sources must be at least as climate-friendly as the most efficent natural gas generators—a standard that no coal plant can now meet. In effect, California is saying no to new coal-fired power plants—a major step in a continent awash in cheap coal.
But BC leaves that in the dust. According to the new plan, “all new and existing electricity produced in B.C. will be required to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.” That’s right: all electricity, net zero emissions. Now, given BC’s current electricity generation portfolio (mostly hydroelectric), this isn’t a huge stretch; but it probably puts the kibosh on two proposed coal-fired power projects in the province. Overall, the policy winds up being a darnsight more ambitious than California’s policy, which has laxer standards, and which only applies to new power sources, not existing ones as well.
And boy, what a difference from Washington State’s “let’s study the heck out of this before we act” approach. In Campbell’s words, BC’s policy “leaves no room for procrastination.” But the conventional wisdom in Washington—expressed pretty clearly in this Seattle Times editorial—is that hesitation is the height of prudence.
Now, obviously, I’m not in favor of rushing willy-nilly into things before they’re thought through. But by calling delay “insightful,” the Times is calling the recent progress in the rest of the west coast, in a nutshell, ill-considered. To which I’d respond—no, at this point, failing to seize the political momentum to tackle one of the globe’s most pressing problems isn’t at all insightful. In fact, it’s a bit cowardly.