Oil, Gas and The Climate: An Analysis of Oil and Gas Industry Plans for Expansion and Compatibility with Global Emission Limits

Oil, Gas and The Climate: An Analysis of Oil and Gas Industry Plans for Expansion and Compatibility with Global Emission Limits

Oil, Gas and The Climate: An Analysis of Oil and Gas Industry Plans for Expansion and Compatibility with Global Emission Limits

Madrid, Spain – Over the coming five years, the oil and gas sector intends to invest USD 1.4 trillion developing new oil and gas extraction. New expansion approved over this same period risks locking in enough carbon emissions to push warming beyond 2°C, let alone 1.5°C, according to a new report by the Global Gas and Oil Network, supported by Oil Change International; 350.org; Center for Biological Diversity; Center for International Environmental Law; CAN-Rac Canada; Earthworks; Environmental Defence Canada; Fundacin Ambiente y Recursos Naturales:FARN; Global Witness; Greenpeace; Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie); Naturvernforbundet; Observatorio Petrolero Sur; Overseas Development Institute; Platform; Sierra Club; Stand.Earth.

“If your house is on fire you don’t add more fuel.  Expanding production of oil and gas at this moment in history is like the fire department showing up with gas rather than water to save a planet on fire.  No one is saying turn off the taps overnight.  We still use oil and gas today, but we must act now to stop the planned expansion by the oil and gas industry that could lock us into an unsafe climate.” — Tzeporah Berman, International Campaign Director at Stand.Earth.

The report, Oil, Gas and The Climate: An Analysis of Oil and Gas Industry Plans for Expansion and Compatibility with Global Emission Limits, finds that:

  • Carbon emissions from oil and gas in existing fields and mines take the world beyond 1.5°C of warming and nearly exhaust a 2°C carbon budget.
    • Between 2020 and 2024, the oil and gas industry plans to sink USD 1.4 trillion into new extraction projects.
    • 85 percent of the expanded production is slated to come from the United States and Canada over that period. The other countries where the largest expansion is planned are Argentina, China, Norway, Australia, Mexico, UK, Brazil, Nigeria.
    • New financial investment decisions over this five-year period have the potential to unlock more than 148 gigatonnes of carbon emissions (GtCO2) from currently undeveloped reserves before 2050, equivalent to building over 1200 new average U.S. coal-fired power plants.
    • This new production could result in warming beyond 2°C unless the industry rapidly shuts down considerable levels of existing production.
    • Twenty-five companies are responsible for nearly 50 percent of the production to 2050 resulting from new expansion of oil and gas in the next five years. These include supposedly progressive European oil majors such as Shell, BP, Total, Equinor.

“The oil and gas industry is betting big on fracking the Permian and building the infrastructure to export what it extracts. Unfortunately, that expansion is a carbon bomb waiting to explode with those living nearest at the most immediate risk. That’s why communities across the region are uniting to oppose this expansion, and even an oil and gas state like New Mexico is acting to rein in oil & gas methane pollution.”  –  Nathalie Eddy, Earthworks’ CO/NM Field Advocate

The report is the latest in a growing body of work highlighting the critical importance of addressing fossil fuel production in order to limit warming to 1.5°C and meet the full ambition of the Paris Agreement. Most recently, the Production Gap report published by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), and other leading research organizations found that national governments plan to extract 120 percent more oil, gas and coal in 2030 than is aligned with 1.5°C.

“Oil and gas companies have spent the last five decades lying to the public about the threat of climate change. Now they’re trying to sell themselves as part of the solution. The public isn’t falling for it. We know the only solution in line with the latest science is to stop all new fossil fuel projects and phase-out existing production as soon as possible.” — Jamie Henn, Strategic Communications Director, 350.org and 350 Action

The world can’t afford and doesn’t need more oil and gas development. In addition to locking in  catastrophic climate change — expansion puts countries, communities, workers and investors currently dependent on oil and gas financially at risk.

“Leadership in the face of a climate emergency means no fossil fuel exploration, new expansion, or financing paired with an ambitious and just transition away from oil and gas production. The cost of inaction is immeasurable not only in dollars, but in lives and livelihoods. Failure is not an option.” — Hannah McKinnon, Director, Energy Transitions and Futures Program, Oil Change International

A growing number of nations are restricting extraction, major economic institutions are moving out of fossil fuels, and demand is projected to decline faster than anticipated due to the cost competitiveness and reliability of renewable energy. Meanwhile, jurisdictions leading on climate action are saving money, reducing health and environmental risks, and creating new economic opportunities. For example, in California, there are five times as many jobs in clean energy than in fossil fuels.

The report points to the critical need for governments and institutions to recognize that a climate emergency demands a new standard of climate leadership. This includes implementing bans on licenses, contracts and permits; removing finance and subsidies; and creating and implementing transition plans that consider the needs of workers and communities impacted by fossil fuel development with high-income countries leading the way. Countries like Costa Rica and France have led in banning new licenses, New Zealand has taken partial steps in this direction, and just last month the European Investment Bank committed to phase out all fossil fuel finance.

This echoes the demands of the Lofoten Declaration, signed by over 700 civil society organizations from more than 80 countries affirming that, “it is the urgent responsibility and moral obligation of wealthy fossil fuel producers to lead in putting an end to fossil fuel development and to manage the decline of existing production.”

“For six decades, oil and gas companies misled consumers, investors and the world about the risks of climate change.  As those risks have turned to grim and growing realities, these companies are pushing a new myth: that the massive expansion of oil and gas production can be reconciled with MEANINGFUL climate action. It cannot. Countries, fossil fuel companies and investors need to take steps now to exit from fossil fuels. It’s time to invest in low-carbon solutions rather than subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and further accelerating the climate crisis.”— Carroll Muffett, President and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law.



Liberals commit to carbon-pollution target of net-zero by 2050

The necessity of pulling carbon dioxide out of the air

But it is difficult to do at the scale you need

Of the wisdom taught in kindergartens, few commandments combine moral balance and practical propriety better than the instruction to clear up your own mess. As with messy toddlers, so with planet-spanning civilisations. The industrial nations which are adding alarming amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere—43.1bn tonnes this year, according to a report released this week—will at some point need to go beyond today’s insufficient efforts to stop. They will need to put the world machine into reverse, and start taking carbon dioxide out. They are nowhere near ready to meet this challenge.

Once such efforts might have been unnecessary. In 1992, at the Rio Earth summit, countries committed themselves to avoiding harmful climate change by reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, with rich countries helping poorer ones develop without exacerbating the problem. Yet almost every year since Rio has seen higher carbon-dioxide emissions than the year before. A staggering 50% of all the carbon dioxide humankind has put into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution was added after 1990. And it is this total stock of carbon that matters. The more there is in the atmosphere, the more the climate will shift—though climate lags behind the carbon-dioxide level, just as water in a pan takes time to warm up when you put it on a fire.

The Paris agreement of 2015 commits its signatories to limiting the rise to 2°C. But as António Guterres, the un secretary-general, told the nearly 200 countries that attended a meeting in Madrid to hammer out further details of the Paris agreement this week, “our efforts to reach these targets have been utterly inadequate.”

The world is now 1°C (1.8°F) hotter than it was before the Industrial Revolution. Heatwaves once considered freakish are becoming commonplace. Arctic weather has gone haywire. Sea levels are rising as glaciers melt and ice-sheets thin. Coastlines are subjected to more violent storms and to higher storm surges. The chemistry of the oceans is changing. Barring radical attempts to reduce the amount of incoming sunshine through solar geoengineering, a very vexed subject, the world will not begin to cool off until carbon-dioxide levels start to fall.
Considering that the world has yet to get a handle on cutting emissions, focusing on moving to negative emissions—the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—might seem premature. But it is already included in many national plans. Some countries, including Britain, have made commitments to move to “net zero” emissions by 2050; this does not mean stopping all emissions for all activities, such as flying and making cement, but taking out as much greenhouse gas as you let loose.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that meeting the 1.5°C goal will mean capturing and storing hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2100, with a median estimate of 730bn tonnes—roughly 17 times this year’s carbon-dioxide emissions. In terms of designing, planning and building really large amounts of infrastructure, 2050 is not that far away. That is why methods of providing negative emissions need to be developed right now.
That raises two problems, one technological, the other psychological. The technological one is that sucking tens of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year is an enormous undertaking for which the world is not prepared. In principle it is simple to remove carbon dioxide by incorporating it in trees and plants or by capturing it from the flue gas of industrial plants and sequestering it underground. Ingenious new techniques may also be waiting to be discovered. But planting trees on a scale even remotely adequate to the task requires something close to a small continent. And developing the engineering systems to capture large amounts of carbon has been a hard slog, not so much because of scientific difficulties as the lack of incentives (see Briefing).
The psychological problem is that, even while the capacity to ensure negative emissions languishes underdeveloped, the mere idea that they will one day be possible eats away at the perceived urgency of cutting emissions today. When the 2°C limit was first proposed in the 1990s, it was plausible to imagine that it might be met by emissions cuts alone. The fact that it can still be talked about today is almost entirely thanks to how the models with which climate prognosticators work have been revised to add in the gains from negative emissions. It is a trick that comes perilously close to magical thinking.
This puts policymakers in a bind. It would be reckless not to try to develop the technology for negative emissions. But strict limits need to be kept on the tendency to demand more and more of that technology in future scenarios. As at kindergarten, some discipline is necessary.
The first discipline is to keep in mind whose mess this is. One of the easiest routes to negative emissions is to grow plants. And the world’s cheap land tends to be in poor places. Some of these places would welcome investment in reforestation and afforestation, but they would also need to be able to integrate such endeavours into development plans which reflect their people’s needs.
The second discipline is for those who talk blithely of “net zero”. When they do so, they should be bound to say what level of emissions they envisage, and thus how much negative emitting their pledge commits them to. The stricter they are about its use, the less they are in reality accommodating today’s polluters.

Government capture

The third discipline is that governments need to take steps to make negative emissions practicable at scale. In particular, research and incentives are needed to develop and deploy carbon-capture systems for industries, such as cement, that cannot help but produce carbon dioxide. A price on carbon is an essential step if such systems are to be efficient. The trouble is that a price high enough to make capture profitable at this stage in its development would be unfeasibly high.

For the time being, therefore, other sticks and carrots will be needed. Governments tend to plead that radical action today is just too hard. And yet those very same governments enthusiastically turn to negative emissions as an easy way to make their climate pledges add up.  SOURCE 


Startups looking to suck CO2 from the air are suddenly luring big bucks

SUVs are way worse for the planet than anyone previously thought

Sales of hefty and heavily-polluting SUVs have doubled in the last decade – outweighing the progress made from electric vehicles. Can cleaner SUVs offer a way out?

The phenomenal rise of the SUV all started with a squabble over chicken. It was 1963 – the height of the Cold War – and US president Lyndon Johnson was fuming over a tax that France and West Germany had imposed on cheap, intensively-farmed US chicken flooding European supermarkets.

In December 1963, after months of failed negotiations, Johnson retaliated. He slapped a 25 per cent tax on imported potato starch, brandy, dextrin and, crucially, light trucks. The effect was immediate. Volkswagen stopped shipping pickups to America and Japanese firms pulled their models from the country, while American manufacturers renewed their focus on much larger vehicles. While the other taxes were later repealed, the levy on trucks was permanent.

In that single executive order, Johnson cleared the path for the SUV to dominate the roads of the United States and then the world. Buoyed by lenient fuel emissions standards and forgiving regulations, oversized cars became the new normal. Between 2010 and 2018 the number of SUVs in the world increased from 35 million to 200m. Now 40 per cent of annual car sales are SUVs – double what it was a decade ago.

First sold in 1983, the Jeep Cherokee is generally seen as the first car to kickstart the trend for modern SUVs. Its successors are still among the best-selling SUVs in the US Heritage Images / Contributor / Getty

…Despite being heavy and gas-guzzling – the average modern petrol SUV emits over ten per cent more CO2 per kilometre than the average petrol car – SUVs have long been marketed as a way of getting people back to nature. SUV adverts are replete with images of cars off-roading over rugged and unexplored natural terrain, Aronczyk says. In reality, SUV ownership tends to cluster in urban areas and only one to 13 per cent of drivers ever use their vehicles for off-road driving, according to Keith Bradsher’s 2004 book High and Mighty: SUVs – The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way.

…With their hulking weight and high driving position, SUVs exude a feeling of safety for those behind the wheel, but it can sometimes be an illusion. In 2003, traffic data from the US government found that people driving or riding in an SUV were 11 per cent more likely to die in an accident than people in cars – thanks to their high centre of gravity and tendency to roll over in crashes. They’re even worse news for pedestrians: SUVs are around twice as likely as cars to kill pedestrians they hit. With their high bumpers, SUVs tend to hit pedestrians in the chest and knock them to the ground, rather than flipping them onto the relatively soft bonnet, as is the case in passenger cars.

Despite being less fuel efficient, more polluting and sometimes more dangerous than passenger cars, the SUV isn’t going anywhere. Growing sales in Africa and the rest of the developing world suggest that when car drivers become more affluent, they start thinking about upgrading to larger vehicles. But if we can’t kick our attachment to SUVs, how else can we get out of the environmental cul-de-sac we’re driving down? MORE


Scientific Breakthrough: MIT Solves Two Huge Energy Problems

Battery Lab

While methane has recently started to grab some attention for its contribution to climate change, carbon dioxide remains the main culprit that scientists point their finger at. Because of its bad-guy status, there have been understandably many attempts to capture and store, or even utilize this CO2. But so far, none of these attempts has demonstrated potential for large-scale adoption. That is, up until now.

Now, a new kind of battery just might fill this need.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have published a paper that details the mechanism of a battery device that can suck out the carbon dioxide from the air, store it, and then release it for sequestration or storage and subsequent sale: the oil and gas industry uses CO2 to improve well output.

The principle of the device is ingeniously simple: as the battery charges, it sucks in carbon dioxide. During discharge, the CO2 is released into the ground. The battery itself is made up of arrays of electrodes with gaps between the arrays so the gas can enter the device. Each electrode is coated with a carbon nanotube layer that enables an electrochemical reaction when carbon dioxide comes into contact with the surface of the electrodes. The guarantee for this contact is the fact the electrodes have a natural affinity for CO2, which means they attract the gas molecules when they enter the device.

“The greatest advantage of this technology over most other carbon capture or carbon absorbing technologies is the binary nature of the adsorbent’s affinity to carbon dioxide,” explains one of the authors, Sahag Voskian, as quoted by New Atlas. “This binary affinity allows capture of carbon dioxide from any concentration, including 400 parts per million (the levels in the atmosphere), and allows its release into any carrier stream, including 100 percent CO2.”

The process is called electro-swing adsorption and, according to the authors of the paper, the device utilizing it could be economically feasible at a cost of between $50 and $100 per ton of carbon dioxide. What’s more, Sahag Voskian and T. Alan Hatton say, the device is very easy to use thanks to its simple design and minimal additional equipment, which is limited to a power source for the charging and a destination for the electricity, a so-called sink.

If the electro-swing device lives up to the promise it would save thebiggest problem of carbon capture and storage: the prohibitively highcosts. The costliest part of the process is the capture. The Carbon Capture and Storage Association estimates the cost of capturing carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning at about US$70-102 per ton.

The same association predicts these could fall to around US$40-57 over the next few years, with hopes that carbon capture technology will follow the cost-falling path of lithium ion batteries. While it is far from certain it will work out that way, inventions such as the carbon-swing device are offering solutions.

For now, based on CCSA’s cost projections for carbon capture, the creators of the electro-swing battery will need to lower the upper limit of their cost range. But with its simple design and plug-and-play nature, the device could have a bright future in carbon capture. SOURCE

‘Canada will benefit from climate change’: comments from Ford appointee draw fire

Joe Oliver, the chair of Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator, Joe Oliver, seen here in 2015, wrote that Canada has “enormous agricultural potential if the land warms up” and “let’s not ignore the greater personal comfort of living in a more hospitable climate.”

The agency that operates Ontario’s electricity system is distancing itself from controversial climate-change comments made by its chair, Joe Oliver, a former federal finance minister appointed to the board last spring by Premier Doug Ford’s government.

Concerns about how seriously the environmental challenge is viewed by the province grew Monday as opposition parties — who last week took aim at Energy Minister Greg Rickford for quoting from a website denying the scientific consensus on climate change — flagged remarks from Oliver.

Oliver, 79, leads the board of the Independent Electricity System Operator, which runs day-to-day needs of the power grid and plans for its future needs. The agency, for example, is handling compensation for developers of more than 750 renewable energy contracts cancelled by the Ford government in July 2018.

In a commentary written for the National Post on August 15 and headlined “Canada will benefit from climate change,” Oliver referred to a study on its impact by Moody’s, a U.S. business and financial services company, and wrote the country has “enormous agricultural potential if the land warms up” and “let’s not ignore the greater personal comfort of living in a more hospitable climate.”

He also argued Canada is responsible for just 1.6 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and thus “cannot achieve a measurable impact on global temperatures.”

The New Democrats and Green party said Oliver’s remarks are troublesome amid escalating warnings about climate change from the scientific community and the United Nations, which has appointed former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney its special envoy on climate.

“To suggest, somehow, that Canada is going to benefit from global warming is the height of insanity. And it is a very, very dangerous opinion to have,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “If he was being flip, shame on him, because this is nothing to joke about.”

The Independent Electricity System Operator said it “has no comment on personal views expressed by Mr. Oliver” and noted “addressing non-traditional threats to grid reliability such as climate change and cyber-attacks is part of the IESO’s corporate strategy to ensure the reliability of Ontario’s electricity system.” SOURCE

5 things everyone can do to protect the planet’s soil

hand in soil

Here’s why soil is one of our most valuable natural resources and what you can do to support it.

Unless you happen to be a farmer or a gardener, chances are you don’t think about soil very often. Even among the eco-minded, we generally think more about the water and air and forests and animals before we think about soil.

But just like we require healthy water and air, so do we require healthy soil. As the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) explains: “Soil provides ecosystem services critical for life: soil acts as a water filter and a growing medium; provides habitat for billions of organisms, contributing to biodiversity; and supplies most of the antibiotics used to fight diseases. Humans use soil as a holding facility for solid waste, filter for wastewater, and foundation for our cities and towns. Finally, soil is the basis of our nation’s agroecosystems which provide us with feed, fiber, food and fuel.”

And as the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) puts it, “Soil is essential to life.”

Which is why these two soil societies are asking everyone to join in celebrating World Soil Day on December 5th, a day to focus attention on the importance of protecting soil as the valuable, natural resource it is.

Now the question is: How does one possibly celebrate soil? Go to a field and throw it a party? Buy some perfume that smells like damp soil? (OK, admittedly that’s a weird one, but I had to get a mention in of one of my favorite scents, M2 Black March, that I affectionately call my “dirt perfume” – it smells just like a scoop of soil from the forest floor.)

Anyway, as it turns out, there is plenty we can do to celebrate the soil, without being farmers or soil scientists. Here are some of the things that the ASA and SSSA recommend:

1. Reduce food waste

The food we buy at the grocery store impacts the entire food supply system. One of the easiest ways we can support the soil is by limiting the amount of food that ends up in our garbage. All the food that ends up in our shopping carts requires land, water, nutrients and energy to produce. By consuming more and throwing away less, we will prevent valuable nutrients from ending up in a landfill.

Reducing food waste has also been called “One of the most important things we can do to reverse global warming.”

2. Eat a diverse diet

By eating different types of foods, we can help create demand for a wide variety of agricultural products, which is better for soil. Food diversity helps with biodiversity and soil fertility when land is used to grow multiple crops. For protein sources, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends varying “your protein routine.”

In general, eating a diverse diet is better for our health too – “eating the rainbow” (a variety of color in fruits and vegetables) helps the body get a great assortment of nutrients.

3. Compost

So maybe our eyes were bigger than our appetites at the grocery store, and we end up with food we can’t finish. Instead of throwing it in the garbage, consider investing in a compost system! Composting can return nutrients in food back to nature. And, compost will be great for our gardens next growing season.

See more of our composting stories here.

4. Read labels on lawn and garden products

Walking through the aisles of any home improvement or garden store, there is a seemingly endless array of products for our lawns and gardens. No matter which product we end up selecting, the most important step before applying is to thoroughly read the label and all instructions. Over- and under-application of the product can both cause problems.

And to that end, TreeHugger advocates for all-natural weed and creature control:

• 6 homemade herbicides: Kill the weeds without killing the Earth
• 8 natural & homemade insecticides: Save your garden without killing the Earth

5. Perform soil tests

If we are looking to fertilize our lawn or garden, we need to know what nutrients are already in the soil before applying more. We might be able to save money and apply less fertilizer. Or, we might just need to add one specific nutrient, and not others. A simple way to get reliable results is to have our soil tested. Local university extension services can help provide information on testing soil. It’s usually a matter of scooping up soil from a few areas of the yard and sending it in to the lab!

So there you go, see? You can celebrate soil! Here’s to a happy and sustainable World Soil Day.

5 reasons BC needs a law to protect the coast

Third Beach, Tofino (Photo: Michael Gabelmann)
Top photo: Third Beach, Tofino, BC (Photo: Michael Gabelmann via Flickr Creative Commons)

December 3, 2019

Who is minding the coast in BC? You might be surprised to learn there are some big gaps – protecting shoreline habitat, working with Indigenous governments to legally implement marine planning , managing the cumulative effects of tenures for docks, utilities, log handling, shellfish aquaculture, and a range of other commercial uses…it all adds up to vulnerability for BC coastlines and the communities that depend on them.

Another problem area is the effect of climate change on the coasts, which we wrote about recently, following the release of the expert report on the global state of oceans and coasts.

West Coast and CPAWS join forces in new campaign

Despite its extensive responsibilities and the sheer importance of the coast and ocean to all who live here, the provincial government has no coordinated coastal strategy to guide regulation and policy. That is why we have launched a campaign with our partners at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS BC) – Protect the Coast.

We’re calling for the creation of a new provincial Coastal Strategy and accompanying BC Coastal Protection Act, to be co-developed with Indigenous governments and coordinated with federal and local governments, as all orders of government share jurisdiction.

A new Act could address many issues, but here are a few important reasons why these innovations matter for BC’s coast.

Five key reasons to establish a BC Coastal Protection Act

1. Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and upholding Indigenous laws

Often the province develops legislation and policy without proper Indigenous involvement. A solution is to co-develop a BC Coastal Protection Act jointly with First Nations in BC. The new BC Environmental Assessment Act is an example that shows how this process can work.

Provincial coastal and marine management does not currently recognize Indigenous law and/or provide adequate space for Indigenous nations to articulate their coastal governance laws. A new Act can recognize Indigenous legal principles, building on successful experiences such as the Haida Gwaii Reconciliation Act, and marine plans such as the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) plans.

2. Integrated governance and co-governance

With both the federal and provincial governments having constitutional responsibility over BC’s coast, First Nations having inherent jurisdiction, and local governments having an active role, there’s a big risk of governments working at cross purposes or blaming each other for failing to address problems. The BC coastal and marine environment needs more effective decision-making at the regional level, to get the different orders of government talking together. A new law can fill that gap.

One positive example is the government-to-government decision-making body established to address aquaculture in the Broughton Archipelago. Composed of the ‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw/Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations and three provincial Ministries, this body reached agreement to protect and restore wild salmon stocks. Their recommendations included establishing a farm-free migration corridor in the Broughton, allowing an orderly transition plan for the 17 salmon farms in the Broughton area, and plans for creating employment and other opportunities for local communities and workers. Two fish farm operators in the region, Mowi Canada West (formerly Marine Harvest Canada) and Cermaq Canada, also agreed to the plan. The federal Minister of Fisheries commended the work of the body.

At present, the role of most First Nations in coastal management is not formally recognized by the BC government. A Coastal Protection Act could allow co-governance through the establishment of a new provincial Coastal Commission, for example. Alternatively, regional co-governance bodies can be created, following examples such as the Haida Gwaii Management Council and Archipelago Management Board. Both bodies exercise decision-making responsibilities in tandem with the provincial and federal governments, respectively.

There also needs to be a link between more strategic level management and planning, and action on the ground. An Act can set out a process for co-developing coastal and marine objectives that can then be administered by all orders of government within their spheres of authority. A well-known example of this is found in the California Coastal Act and Commission.

3. Preventing further loss of coastal habitat and protecting vital habitats

Foreshore habitat continues to be lost in BC as a result of development (with estimates of 50 – 90% losses of coastal wetlands in major estuaries since records started being kept). A new Act can create provincial regulation or policy to prohibit or prevent coastal habitat loss and better protect the foreshore by coordinating with coastal flood management activities, and supporting nature-based measures to deal with coastal flooding.

Currently BC lags behind other jurisdictions: this past spring Nova Scotia passed a Coastal Protection Act, and down the Pacific coast Washington, Oregon and California all have coastal protection laws.

The State of Washington is currently using regulation and incentives to reduce overall rates of shoreline hardening. A recent report from the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria takes an in-depth look at Washington’s law and how it works to protect forage fish habitat, and how a new Act in BC might replicate this approach.

No comparable regulatory tool or policy exists in BC. And as a result, shoreline habitats, such as the beaches that forage fish and other species rely on, may be lost. A number of local governments have adopted Green ShoresTM policies that need provincial legislative support to be fully implemented.

A provincial Coastal Protection Act can also restrict building on the sensitive foreshore by developing requirements for coastal setbacks. The BC Riparian Areas Regulation does not apply in marine areas, and local governments that try to require setbacks and prohibit building seawalls have been challenged in court as lacking adequate jurisdiction as this court case shows. (The Islands Trust is appealing the decision)

4. Requiring binding and enforceable marine plans, and a new system of marine tenures

The province is at the forefront of best practice in marine spatial plans (MSP). The ecosystem-based Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) plans developed for the central and north coasts, co-developed with Indigenous governments, are a cause for celebration. Older coastal plans such as this one developed for the Johnston-Bute coastal area also show provincial leadership.

Yet all these plans are voluntary, carry no consequences for non-compliance, and do not address the cumulative effects of tenure approvals. Without legislative backing and oversight, these plans risk being ignored.

The Minister of Agriculture’s Advisory Council on Finfish Aquaculture emphasized that after expending so much time end energy to reach aquaculture siting decisions, there is a need to “Identify and apply appropriate B.C. regulatory tools to reinforce the direction provided on net-pen finfish aquaculture siting and tenure management in existing, approved marine spatial plans developed and approved by B.C and First Nations.”

The solution here is clear: a Coastal Protection Act can make marine plans legally binding and enforceable. Legislation often provides that plans are binding, such as the Mackenzie Valley Natural Resource Management Act, and the Ontario Far North Act.

5. Protecting and restoring the health of the marine environment

Poor marine environmental quality threatens fisheries, wild salmon, shellfish aquaculture, human health and recreation. More frequent beach closures and chronic fecal coliform contamination result from inadequate sewage and septic treatment.

A legal order or regulation in a new BC Act can establish management objectives for marine use designations and zones, just as the BC Land Act enables land use objectives and the BC Water Sustainability Act enables water objectives. The province could work with the federal government, as Fisheries and Oceans Canada may create marine environmental quality guidelines under the federal Oceans Act. To date, no such guidelines have been issued.

Protecting the health of the marine environment also means addressing the impacts of climate change on the coast. In BC, local governments are the primary managers of the current and anticipated impacts of sea level rise. They have responsibility for most coastal dikes as well as development in coastal areas.

The provincial government has provided guidance about the rate of sea level rise. While the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Strategy provides overall information about climate impacts, there is no clear framework for implementing mitigation measures.

From a governance and flood risk management perspective, the connection between provincial and local governments is made through the Flood Hazard Area Land Use Management Guidelines, which are developed as policy to support the implementation of the Local Government Act. A coastal protection law can establish a legal pathway for implementing flood management measures that work with nature, and help preserve coastal habitat.

Tell us what you think!

We’d like to hear from you about what coastal problems the government can tackle and how a new law and strategy can help. Please reply in the comments section below and fuel our campaign with examples of gaps in our coastal and marine protection laws that could be filled by a new law.