Published On: Friday, 23 November 2018

West Shore Chamber: Economic Development in an Era of Climate Change

West Shore Chamber: Economic Development in an Era of Climate Change

As I know has been the case for many of my Chamber of Commerce colleagues across the province, I have watched with interest as decisions about resource development have been announced over the last couple of months. On August 30th, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned federal approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline extension on the basis that the Energy Board’s assessment of the proposal was sufficiently flawed that the federal government could not use the review as a basis for making a decision. Then on October 2nd, there was a joint provincial-federal announcement that a $40 billion liquefied natural gas project running between Dawson Creek and Kitimat had been approved and would be going ahead immediately.

The BC Chamber of Commerce is in support of both of these projects going ahead, and was particularly concerned about the uncertainty for investment created by the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision. Why would investors want to put their money into Canada if unclear decision making processes will put investments at risk? It’s a fair question, as arguably the greatest impediment to business growth and development is uncertainty.

Which is why we should all be concerned about the message of the recently released UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees Celsius. The report states that unless we drastically decrease our carbon emissions now, by 2040 we are likely to surpass the 1.5 degrees of global warming. This matters because the impact will include “food shortages, droughts, extreme weather [and] vanishing coastlines . . .” to name but a few of the points listed. (Huffington Post October 15 2018: UN Climate Change Report Spurs Emergency Debate in House of Commons) This is a road map for uncertainty.

This report tells us that what we’re doing right now to reduce our carbon footprint is not enough. Circling back to my opening paragraph, resource development is welcome for its accompanying job creation and economic benefit, and it has to come hand in glove with a robust and achievable plan for mitigating the increase in carbon emissions. This is clearly only one area of many to which we will have to turn our attention if we are to make a substantial difference.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said in the past that economic development does not have to come at the cost of environmental impact. How are we going to do both?

Julie Lawlor is the Executive Director at the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.

You can reach her at jlawlor@westshore.bc.ca