Forest fire burns through pine beetle-damaged forest at Eutsuk Lake in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, 2014. (Black Press files)

Climate adaptation needed, B.C. auditor general says

Flooding, wildfire risks need local, provincial action

B.C.’s adaptation plans to deal with climate change haven’t been updated since 2010, and support for local government efforts to prepare for wildfire and flooding need more attention, B.C.’s auditor general says.

Auditor General Carol Bellringer’s report, released Thursday, agrees with previous government estimates that B.C. will not meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. It also questions whether the more ambitious 2050 target to reduce emissions can be met.

Bellringer emphasizes the need for adaptation to a world-wide change that B.C. has only a small role, with only nine per cent of Canada’s human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Last year’s B.C. wildfire season burned the largest area on record, and new research highlighted the decades of forest fire suppression that eliminated frequent small fires that removed wood debris from the forest floor. Local governments have sought provincial and federal help to reduce forest fuel loads, and to build up dike networks to protect communities from flooding.

RELATED: B.C. Interior fires used to be much more common

“Key climate-driven risk areas, like flooding and wildfires, require additional attention,” Bellringer wrote. “We found that government may not be able to manage flood risks, given that roles and responsibilities are spread across many agencies and levels of government, and these organizations may not have adequate staffing or technical capacity.”

B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman acknowledged that B.C.’s target of reducing its emissions to two thirds of the 2007 level by 2020 isn’t likely to be met. The NDP government has set a new target of 40 per cent reduction by 2030.

“We are also increasing B.C.’s carbon tax by $5 per tonne per year, beginning April 1, 2018,” Heyman said. “The higher price on carbon will help put us on a path to meet both the new 2030 target and the 2050 target of 80 per cent below 2007 levels.”


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