Stand.earth reacts to B.C. budget
February 28, 2023
səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) – The British Columbia government unveiled a provincial budget today that included some notable new investments, but fell short on the environmental ambition necessary to meet its climate targets and protect ecosystems.
Today’s budget announcement comes on the heels of the United For Old Growth rally, which saw thousands march to the Legislature to demand the protection of at-risk old growth, reform forest stewardship, and ensure fulsome funding for First Nations. Other than previously announced funds for landscape planning and worker supports, there is no new budget to support implementation of the Old Growth Strategic Review or broader conservation financing.
“We keep hearing new promises for forests, but the results on the ground are the same: old growth continues to fall, and big logging companies continue to take advantage of this government’s lack of action,” said Tegan Hansen, Senior Forest Campaigner, Stand.earth. “Minister Conroy said forest communities have been hit hard by beetles and fires, but right now communities are struggling with the impacts of years of overexploitation by major timber companies under the supervision of the B.C. government. Today’s budget fails to fund real solutions that will keep old growth standing now, while supporting resilient ecosystems and communities for the future.”
B.C. has budgeted over $1 billion to respond to disasters made worse by climate change and the impacts of logging, but not enough to proactively protect the ecosystems that we need to prevent worsening disasters in the future – especially old growth and primary forests. Instead, these disasters – which are already costing in the tens of billions according to a recent study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – will only get worse as forests continue to be clearcut.
The province continues to tout its commitment to defer logging in 2.6 million hectares of at-risk old growth. However, instead of allocating new funds to support First Nations and keep forests standing, the B.C. NDP government has instead decided to leave the majority of the most vulnerable old growth stands – proposed deferrals that overlap existing logging permits – open to logging.
Despite re-announcing previous funding commitments for the province’s CleanBC climate plan, today’s budget also lacked any major new commitments to funding climate programs. In 2022, B.C. canceled its largest fossil fuel subsidy – the Deep Well Royalty Credit – but the province still continues to give significant subsidies to oil and gas companies.
“The $11 million a year in new spending in this budget for CleanBC, to fund a pilot program to transition fleets to zero emission vehicles, is a drop in the bucket compared to the scale of the challenge we face,” said Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Program Director for Stand.earth. “We should be making generational investments to rapidly scale-up renewable energy systems, build climate-resilient housing, expand public transportation, create good jobs in sustainable industries but instead we’re continuing to spend billions on handouts for extremely profitable oil and gas companies.”
Right now, the province of B.C. is under pressure from Shell and its joint venture partners to further subsidize phase two of LNG Canada, despite the very generous package of tax breaks they already gave the project’s first phase. If LNG Canada is built, it will be the largest single source of climate pollution in B.C. and a significant roadblock to meeting the province’s 2030 climate target.
Today’s budget is a missed opportunity for Premier Eby. Despite his commitment to take action to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and accelerate action on old growth in his first 100 days in office, he has neither made major new investments to fund climate solutions and old growth protection, nor committed to completing the work of canceling subsidies.
Ziona Eyob, Media Director – Canada, email@example.com, +1 604 757 7279 (Pacific Time)