October 23, 2017 5:23 pm
Updated: October 23, 2017 7:34 pm

BC NDP unveils new climate policy advisory council

B.C.'s new 22-member climate advisory council is charged with helping the province meet its carbon emissions targets while protecting industry.

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The B.C. government has unveiled a new advisory council charged with helping the province meet its emissions reduction targets.

Environment Minister George Heyman says the council will be charged with developing a new climate strategy for the province while balancing B.C.’s economic needs.

READ MORE: Investigation claims B.C.’s climate plan was influenced by oil and gas industry

The 22-member council will meet quarterly and be co-chaired by Merran Smith, executive director with Clean Energy Canada and Marcia Smith, a senior vice-president with Teck Resources.

Heyman said the team will report to his office and the Climate Action Secretariat as the province works to meet targets set for 2030 and 2050.

“[It will] help us work through the issues of how we balance reductions across industry, across buildings and homes, across transportation, in order to meet those targets.”

READ MORE: B.C. keeps freeze on carbon tax in climate plan

Heyman further said he will introduce legislation next spring that mandates the government to cut emissions by 40 per cent over the next 13 years.

“The reason we’ve put together this advisory council today is to help us work through the issues of how we balance reductions across industry, across buildings and homes, and across transportation in order to meet those targets,” he said.

“I look forward to working with them, I’m confident we can meet goals.”

The panel also includes representation from municipalities, First Nations, environmental groups, labour and the energy and construction industries.

The council will replace the BC Liberal appointed Climate Leadership Team that advised the former government on its Climate Action Plan.

That plan, which included a freeze on B.C.’s carbon tax, was widely panned by environmentalists – as well as some members of the Climate Leadership Team itself, who said the province had ignored their advice.

Aug 2016: Liberal Government unveils ‘Climate Action Plan’

More recently that plan has come under fire over allegations members of the oil and gas industry had a hand in drafting the final product.

Under B.C. law, the province is to cut carbon emissions to 80 per cent below 2007 levels by 2050, while the federal government has committed Canada to reducing emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 as a part of the Paris Agreement.

READ MORE: B.C. climate report suggests a hike in carbon tax

The NDP has pledged to increase the carbon tax by $20 per tonne in $5 annual increments beginning in 2018.

The tax, the first of its kind in Canada, was introduced in 2008 and has been frozen at $30 per tonne since 2012.

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver applauded what he called an “excellent and diverse” panel, and pledged to work with the NDP on developing a new climate strategy.

“Our province is already feeling the effects of climate change, but the risks of inaction to the next generation are even greater,” Weaver said in a statement.

The province says the new Climate Solutions and Clean Growth Advisory Council will convene “as soon as possible.”

-With files from the Canadian Press

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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