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B.C. off the mark with claim that LNG could help fight climate change: report

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is silhouetted as she speaks after a groundbreaking event for FortisBC's Tilbury LNG facility expansion project in Delta, B.C., on Oct. 21, 2014.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

A report from the Pembina Institute pokes holes in the British Columbia government's claim that exporting liquefied natural gas is the greatest single step the province can take to fight climate change.

The government has said shipping LNG from B.C. to Asia would help cut the use of coal, which emits higher greenhouse-gas emissions.

But the report released Monday said only strong climate-change policies will limit the output of emissions, and without those policies the use of coal and natural gas will increase over the next few decades.

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Josha MacNab, co-author of the report with Matt Horne, said they haven't seen any evidence to support Premier Christy Clark's claim that exporting LNG will cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

In fact, she said, their research indicates "these claims are inaccurate."

"The reality is that it's actually climate policy, not the production of natural gas, or the availability of natural gas, that will determine our trajectory toward dangerous climate change and the mix of fuels that will avoid this outcome," she told reporters on a webinar after the report was released.

The report looked at different scenarios over two decades for the use of coal, oil, natural gas and renewable energies, such as nuclear power.

Under the current policy framework, the report said the use of coal, oil and natural gas would all increase, while under strong climate policies the use of fossil fuels would go down by 2035 and renewables would increase.

"Our research indicates that, contrary to the government's claim, natural gas will not reduce coal use and will not help solve climate change in a world with weak climate policies in place, which unfortunately is the world we live in," said Horne.

British Columbia's role could be to adopt strong climate-change policies locally and advocate for similar changes globally, he said.

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The report's first recommendation is that the province acknowledge that B.C.'s shipment of LNG to Asia won't help reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions in line with efforts to avoid a two-degree Celsius warming.

Other recommendations would see the province investigate ways to reduce its own gas emissions, implement climate-change policy to reduce emissions and apply a proactive role on methane management globally by working with other LNG-producing jurisdictions to establish stronger policies.

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak was unavailable for an interview to react to the report that attempts to discredit her government's claim that global GHG emissions would drop with LNG shipments to Asia.

But in an email statement, Polak said the province has worked with many international forums to encourage adoption of carbon pricing.

"This report validates the leadership position B.C. is taking in incenting innovation to address climate change," her statement said.

Global energy systems are large and complex and take time to change, and preventing other countries from accessing low-cost, reliable energy as they begin to develop is not what we believe in, she said.

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"Supplying the cleanest energy products we can contributes to global development and fights global climate change."

Tom Pedersen, from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, which commissioned the report, said it is imperative that the global community bring in policies that limit the worst impacts of climate change.

"The science is clear that we need to stay within two degrees of warming to avoid the worst impacts of climate change." he said in a statement.

The Pembina Institute is a non-profit environmental think-tank.

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