In case you weren’t poring over government news releases on the Monday before Canada Day, you might have missed B.C.’s 2014 Climate Progress Report. This is the sort of release time slot typically reserved for bad news that governments don’t want to draw attention to. Instead, while the Climate Progress Report has some controversial elements, it’s predominantly positive news that merits attention.

Making progress

Carbon pollution was reported to be six per cent lower in 2012 (the most recent data available) relative to 2007, when B.C.’s Climate Action Plan came into effect. This six per cent drop aligns with B.C.’s first interim climate target.

Just as important, government policy has helped achieve that outcome — and it has happened while encouraging innovation and economic growth in the province. This means that government policies — like the carbon tax and a ban on dirty coal-fired electricity — are working to reduce carbon pollution.

The province isn’t alone in praising the effectiveness of its climate change policies. Research from Sustainable ProsperityUniversity of Ottawa and the OECD among others has found that the carbon tax is helping to reduce carbon pollution in B.C.

“We have done well, but have many challenges to face, and more action will be needed to move from each target to the next.” — B.C. 2014 Climate Action Report. Photo credit: BC Gov Photos on Flickr.

However, claiming to have met its 2012 interim target isn’t without controversy because one quarter of the reductions are from the government investing in forest offsets. In a 2013 audit, B.C.’s Auditor General criticized the credibility of two major offset projects (one of which was forest-based), so there will be legitimate questions about the credibility of the offsets being used to meet the target.

While the role of offsets in B.C.’s climate strategy should be discussed, that discussion shouldn’t detract from the progress that has been achieved. With or without offsets, government policies are helping to achieve modest cuts in carbon pollution levels in a way that works with provincial economic objectives.

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