Minister says dealing with slash burning ‘a challenge’

George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, speaks at the Canadian Bioeconomy Conference and Exhibition in Prince George Friday. Bill Phillips photo
George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, speaks at the Canadian Bioeconomy Conference and Exhibition in Prince George Friday. Bill Phillips photo

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

Emissions from burning slashpiles account for eight per cent of the province’s carbon emissions.

For many bioeconomy businesses, those slashpiles are a source of raw material they can use to develop and grow their businesses. Accessing that resource, however, isn’t as easy as one might think.

It was one of the first questions posed to George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, after his keynote address at the Canadian Bioeconomy Conference and Exhibition in Prince George Friday.

“It’s much better to take waste and turn it into economic advantage than simply turn it into pollution,” he told the crowd of about 200 gathered for the annual conference.

He said equal access to fibre is being reviewed by Forest Minister Doug Donaldson.

“Slashpiles are a challenge,” Heyman said. “The original plan of the carbon tax was to apply the tax, or some form of carbon pricing to slash burning. It’s a commitment that we’ve done, but before we get there we want to ensure that when we apply a carbon tax, that we invest a lot of that in a clean technology fund … that will reduce emissions.”

He added another aspect of the plan will be as businesses approach world-leading standards in their industry, they will be able to get 100 per cent of the incremental carbon tax back.

“In the case of slash burning, what we want to do is do the groundwork to provide alternatives for uses of slash so we’re not simply penalizing people for dealing with their waste … we’re providing low carbon alternatives for dealing with waste that, ideally, will help them make money, not spend money.”

B.C. has taken a leadership role in the development of the forest bioeconomy framework for Canada, Heyman said. The framework provides a comprehensive approach for accelerating bioproducts in Canada.

“Many forestry- and resource-based communities will be significantly affected by climate change … whether it’s growing season, finding the right mix of species, dealing with extreme weather events, forest fires … we need to deal with how we adapt as well as mitigate.”

The province has also set new carbon reduction targets after it became clear the legislated 2020 targets for greenhouse gas emissions won’t be met.

The new targets, which Heyman calls aggressive, are necessary to meet the national 2050 targets of 80 per cent reduction below 2007 levels by 2050.

“We’ve set 40 per cent level reduction by 2030 and a 60 per cent reduction by 2040,” he said. “The legislation also allows the minister to set sectoral targets … The reason we’re doing it by ministerial order is so we can the flexibility as we learn what’s possible with new technologies and as we can fill gaps in one sector that may be harder to meet in another.”

The legislation will also involve detailed public reports.

“It’s important that we have accountability, it’s important that we have a plan, it’s important that we have a pathway and important that the pathway to reducing emissions is intricately interlaced with an economic strategy.”

The province will release a Climate Action Strategy this fall and over the summer it will be highlighting what measures are being taken.

“We’re looking for incentives, we’re looking for supports, we’re looking for economic opportunities and ways we can work together,” he said. “But the greatest touchstone of a climate strategy has to be ‘are our emissions going down?’”

Bioeconomy businesses, of course, will be very much involved in that strategy, he said.