Budget missed opportunity to deliver big on climate and nature
VANCOUVER | TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORIES OF THE xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) FIRST NATIONS — Although B.C.’s Budget 2023 delivered on commitments to increase carbon pricing, support active transportation and plan for more sustainable resource management, it was a missed opportunity to adequately address the mounting challenges from the climate and biodiversity crises affecting B.C.
“Increased carbon pricing is central to the energy transition and clean economy, so we’re happy to see this commitment in the budget,” said the foundation’s senior climate policy adviser Tom Green. “We’re also encouraged to see that fairness and affordability were part of the equation with climate action tax credits increasing for the majority of British Columbians.”
“We were looking for greater investments in the clean economy, a source for well-paid and growing jobs,” Green added. “Analysis shows these investments need to reach two per cent of GDP to be effective. We’re not on track for that as B.C. transitions to a zero-emissions future.”
In large part because of the continued expansion of fossil gas production, B.C. has not yet seen a significant downturn in carbon emissions. The province has set a legislated target of a 16 per cent reduction from 2007 levels by 2025. Emissions went down just one per cent (below 2007 levels) in 2020, according to B.C.’s emissions inventory update in September 2022.
While the budget included funding to help preserve and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities and connect people to nature, the financial commitment to move away from old-growth logging, restore degraded ecosystems and recover at-risk species like caribou was missing or insufficient.
“Worker retraining and land-use planning received some support, but this budget needed to support full implementation of the old-growth panel recommendations to put B.C. in a position to truly halt and reverse biodiversity loss,” said foundation Western Canada and nature programs director Jay Ritchlin. “Communities transitioning away from old-growth logging, mining, oil and gas need financial alternatives, and restoring the damage already done takes large amounts of money.”
While the David Suzuki Foundation welcomes an earlier announcement from the B.C. government of $180 million for local governments and First Nations to better prepare for the risk of climate-related natural disasters, more is needed.
“Investing now in climate mitigation and adaptation at the same time as nature conservation and restoration is the most economically sound way B.C. can address the dual crises, while also preparing for the future,” Ritchlin said.
“Economic concerns sometimes persuade governments to temper environmental investments, but these are investments in our shared future, in future generations,” Ritchlin added. “If we don’t invest wisely now, the costs of inaction will be much, much higher.”
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