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BC green economy creates more jobs than oil sands

Readers of our recent “Big Grab” series on the oil sands might have noticed an interesting pair of statistics concerning jobs in Canada:

  • 166,000 jobs in BC’s green economy
  • 144,000 jobs in Canada’s oil sands industry

Our Canadian economy is starting to transition into a “peak CO2” economic reality. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has committed Canada to a declining CO2 economy, in sync with the United States. Our major trading partners are insisting ever more strongly that we stick to our pledges in this area. And, as the US ambassador to Australia pointed out recently, the United States has been working very hard over the last few years to roll out a whole suite of low-carbon policies. The results is that the Americans are on target to meet our shared pledge and are pulling ever farther ahead of Canadians in the race for low-carbon prosperity.

Meanwhile, BC has also been laying the groundwork for maximizing our wealth and jobs from each of those dwindling tonnes of CO2. We have introduced our own suite of low-carbon laws and policies, such as:

  • Economy-wide BC Carbon Tax
  • Mandate for 100% clean electricity from new sources
  • Membership in a regional cap-and-trade called the Western Climate Initiative
  • Mandates for carbon-neutral government

The BC economy now produces $2,500 per tonne of CO2. That is more per tonne than Canada or the USA generate. In our province we are ahead of the game. Green businesses contributed $15 billion to our provincial GDP in 2008 and green jobs are projected to grow to 225,000 in BC by the end of the decade.

In contrast, our neighbour Alberta continues to delay the work of transitioning their economy into one that can still produce rising prosperity during falling emissions of CO2. Alberta’s economy today produces just $760 per dwindling tonne of CO2.

As our nation’s economy encounters peak CO2, Alberta’s economy is under-prepared. They are in a deep hole and their options are growing fewer and more expensive with each day of continued delay. Whatever they eventually decide, it is very likely to cost them significantly more as a result of waiting so long to get started.  

Maybe all this helps explain why our new Premier, Christy Clark, has increased her support for BC carbon policies the more she has looked into the details. Here is her most recent statement on this:

Open Letter to British Columbians from Premier Christy Clark
Building on BC’s Leadership in the Green Economy.

Over the past several years, BC has gained international recognition for being a leader on the green economy and taking strong, bold steps to reduce our carbon footprint. We have set legislated targets to reduce our carbon emissions 33% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. And we, as a province, have taken strong, bold steps to achieve them.

When I took office on March 14th, there were important decisions on my plate:

• Do we follow the path that has been laid out through 2012 on the carbon tax?
• Do we continue to be engaged with other provinces and states in developing policies to reduce carbon emissions?

In both cases, the answer is yes. It’s in BC’s interests to be leading change in order to leverage our bountiful supply of renewable resources and clean energy, and, more importantly, our expertise and creativity in adapting to a greener economy.

Climate change is having a major impact on BC, whether it is the devastation of our forests by the mountain pine beetle, the impact on our water supply due to melting glaciers, or extreme weather events. Governments, communities, and businesses around the world are confronting climate change, some places more than others, but there is unquestionably a movement taking place that is changing the way our economy works.

BC is on the leading edge of the new, green economy – a decision that was reinforced by the electorate in the 2009 election when it made a choice to elect a government committed to moving ahead with courageous climate change policies.

New green jobs being are being created and cleaner technology is being utilized … BC is seen as a leader in the new green economy.

Where do we go from here?

The carbon tax has put a price on carbon, while returning that revenue back to individuals and businesses through tax cuts. The purpose is to provide, over time, an incentive for individuals and businesses to reduce carbon use. To date, we have cut more taxes than the amount collected by the carbon tax.

In the future, I am open to considering using the carbon tax to support regional initiatives, such as public transit. If we go this route, we must ensure that the allocation of carbon tax revenue respects regions and communities so that one region is not subsidizing investments in another.

We will continue to play a leadership role through the Western Climate Initiative to design a cap and trade system that works for our environment and our economy. Cap and trade requires the participation of trading partners, and BC will work with California and other participating jurisdictions, while consulting extensively with stakeholders in BC.

As we go forward, one thing is for certain: we will work to achieve our targets to reduce carbon emissions and continue to be a leader in North America on the green economy. Not in a vacuum, but by working together with British Columbian families, communities, and businesses.

Premier Christy Clark

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