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Earth Day 2016 and CO2: How we're helping in B.C.

As we fight climate change, B.C.'s hydroelectricity is a valuable weapon

As Earth Days go, this one's pretty big.

Today, leaders from 160 countries will officially sign the Paris Climate Agreement, a hard-fought deal developed in Paris last December that aims to curb global warming before it's too late. The deal seeks to put in place targets designed to limit the global temperature increase to less than two degrees C above pre-industrial levels, and to strive for a 1.5-degree goal.

We have a lot of work to do in Canada, as carbon emissions in this country actually rose to 732 megatonnes (MT) in 2014 from 731 MT in the previous year. Our target for 2020 is 620 MT.

Meanwhile in B.C., we're eight years into a revenue-neutral carbon tax that encourages individuals, businesses, industry and others to use less fossil fuel and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. And we're also in an elite club of regions around the world that use hydroelectric generation to significantly limit the carbon impacts of power generation.

Awhile back, we produced an infographic  that compares power generation in B.C. with a variety of regions around the world, in terms of generation type (hydro, coal, nuclear, gas, etc.), residential electricity rate and CO2 emissions. The infographic paints a powerful picture that includes the following:

  • With 76% of their generation coming from coal, Australia produces 80 times the carbon per gigawatt hour generated as BC Hydro, which is 92% hydroelectric. And the cost of electricity in Australia is about four times what is in B.C.
  • At 48% gas generation, the state of New York produces 24 times as much carbon per gigawatt hour as in B.C., and sells electricity at close to three times B.C.'s rates.

See the What's clean? What's affordable? infographic

Clean generation gives us options

As we fight to lower our CO2 emissions in B.C., the availability of clean, affordable hydroelectric power puts us in the position to make some changes to cut our carbon creation.

One area that shift will take place is on our roads, where the adoption of electric vehicles — spurred on by reduced vehicle purchase prices and improved charging infrastructure — can cut our CO2 emissions significantly. Electric vehicles may also prove popular in other areas of North America, but in most places, those cars will be powered by electricity generated by coal and other fossil fuels with major CO2 emissions.

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