Last week, the federal government began a conversation with Canadians about a national clean-fuel standard that will help Canadians meet our national greenhouse gas emissions commitments. I'm guessing 99 per cent of everyone reading this will not know that the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement a clean fuel standard is us, you and I, British Columbia.
The policy is simple but extremely effective. Fuel suppliers in B.C. are required to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. We call our provincial policy the Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Requirements Regulation, and this regulation that no one has heard about is currently B.C.’s largest single emissions-reduction initiative. It’s thanks to this regulation, implemented in 2010, that the gasoline and diesel fuel you pump at the gas station contains renewable content like ethanol and biodiesel.
Between 2010 and 2015, the use of renewable and low-carbon fuels resulted in the avoidance of an average of 904,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year – the equivalent of removing more than 190,000 cars from the road.
While other provinces (and the federal government) have introduced renewable content requirements, B.C.’s system goes beyond just requiring renewable content in gas and diesel fuel by recognizing the carbon intensity of producing, processing, transporting and using both petroleum-based fuels and biofuels. In fact, B.C. is the only province in Canada (and with California and Oregon, one of only three jurisdictions in North America) with a clean-fuel standard that requires the reduction of the carbon intensity of transportation fuels based on a complete lifecycle analysis.
Our low-carbon fuel requirement currently calls for a 10 per cent reduction in the “well-to-wheels” carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2020, and under B.C.’s new Climate Leadership Plan we’re increasing the target to 15 per cent by 2030. When we require a 10 per cent reduction in 2020, the quantity of avoided greenhouse gas emissions is expected to be 2.7 million tonnes annually, and at 15 per cent in 2030, the reductions would be over four million tonnes per year.
The low-carbon fuel requirement is a market-based approach to achieving emission reductions. It uses a lifecycle assessment to determine the overall carbon intensity of transportation fuels. This includes factors associated with the production and consumption of each fuel – for example, the exploration and production of fossil fuels, production of crops for biofuels, and the refining, transport and end-use of the fuel are all accounted for.
One of the key features of the low-carbon requirement is its flexibility. Fuel suppliers can reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels and meet the low-carbon requirement in a number of ways, including improving agricultural practices for growing biofuel crops and supplying more low-carbon fuels such as propane, natural gas, electricity or hydrogen, or renewable fuels such as biodiesel or ethanol. In addition, fuel suppliers can acquire low-carbon fuel credits from another supplier who supplies low-carbon fuels, or create compliance credits by undertaking actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the greater use of low-carbon fuels.
Our government supports Canada's wise decision to follow British Columbia’s lead and consider implementing a clean fuel standard throughout the country. We look forward to sharing our expertise and experience in future pan-Canadian discussions on a national standard.