Feb 2021



By Alex Boston

B.C. is required to set interim province-wide and sectoral targets under the Climate Change Accountability Act.

This sectoral target setting process and accountability objective is an immense opportunity to develop a target and indicator framework that fosters literacy, guides implementation, facilitates monitoring, supports continuous improvement and engenders accountability.

This process is not simply about advancing these objectives within the BC Government. This process should cultivate collective action across different levels of government and other public agencies, as well as with diverse private and social sector players.

Renewable Cities submitted feedback to the BC Government on the Setting Sectoral Targets for Emissions Reductions discussion paper. This post summarizes key points. Given its mandate, an emphasis is placed on community emission activity: road transportation, buildings and waste. These activities have immense implications for other priorities—affordability, congestion management, the low carbon economy, resilience in forest-based communities, fiscal responsibility and sustainable land use. These are broader imperatives identified by the BC Government and should be part of an integrated transition. Most of the principles, moreover, for establishing an effective target and indicator regime pertain to broader sectors such as industry and oil and gas.


While the Province may adopt a small set of sectoral targets, e.g. 15, in legislation, it would be prudent to generate a more comprehensive set of targets and indicators that are integrated into the reporting process. This will enable diverse actors inside and outside government and across diverse sectors to take ownership of B.C.’s zero emission future while advancing other key provincial priorities, e.g., affordability, congestion management, economic development in resource-based communities or clean tech industrial development.

Renewable fuel targets and zero emission vehicle sales targets are essential to guide policy development in the light duty vehicle sector. These targets, in fact, already exist and should be integrated into a target and indicator monitoring regime.

To round out this sector, targets associated with increasing transportation choice (notably, in transit and active transportation) and sustainable land use underpin an essential suite of complementary solutions. Some of these targets may be enshrined in legislation but other indicators with performance assumptions are necessary to guide policy development, evaluate progress and make adjustments.


Targets enshrined in legislation are essential for residents, policymakers, and private sector players in B.C. to develop a shared understanding of our destination. Like any effective helmsman, it will always be necessary for the BC Government to trim the sails and adjust the tiller to ensure we arrive unscathed at our ultimate destination. Cultivating a continuous improvement ethos around these targets and indicators is essential to build a culture of success.

COVID-19’s implications to transit ridership underscore the importance of a continuous improvement philosophy that takes into account unforeseen shocks to policy, planning and implementation. B.C. needs to help TransLink and BC Transit successfully rebound and rebuild the ridership essential for making necessary modal shifts to meet 2030 and 2050 targets. This also supports B.C.’s commitment to addressing affordability: transportation is the second biggest household expenditure after housing, and is the biggest household expenditure in some of the fastest growing, auto-oriented, carbon intensive neighbourhoods in B.C.

Because of our collective success in B.C., we know we can establish bolder ZEV new sales targets, as we have exceeded targets five years ahead of schedule. We also must do so to meet 2030 CleanBC targets given the enormity and growth of the light duty vehicle sector.

The target setting process should foster an appreciation that course corrections will be necessary while commitments to the destination and timetable are steadfast.


One important lesson from B.C.’s exemplary Energy Step Code process is fostering interest amongst diverse players around the table to share responsibility for targets. There are a series of energy targets out to 2032 across various building types and diverse players are making headway. The extraordinary success of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard with its interim targets provides a similar lesson. Other sectors and players need similar frameworks with targets and indicators, and their development should be a fundamental element of the target setting process.


It is critical for an effective target and indicator framework to have both leading and lagging indicators. Province-wide and sectoral GHG percentage reduction targets are useful. They help us understand overall progress driven by diverse policy and implementation activities and market transformations. However, these lagging indicators are wholly inadequate on their own—percentage reductions don’t drive change, they respond to change.

Leading indicators with targets or performance assumptions are essential for driving change, e.g., annual or five-year targets for deep retrofits, annual or five-year organic diversion targets in municipal solid waste. Multiple targets and indicators are required at a subsectoral level to inform and drive the changes that must be made. These do not have to be enshrined in legislation; however, they are critical for fostering a shared responsibility about the journey we are embarking on and how to get there.


The intensity of targets—and our confidence in meeting them—must be informed by the breadth of policies deployed. B.C. is an innovator and early adopter of effective, new policy instruments. This foundation of policy innovation must be fortified with further policy pillars:

Good Governance
Despite the success of BC’s Energy Step Code Council, collaborative governance models are largely overlooked in driving change. They are essential for good policy creation, capacity building, building shared understanding and solving complex problems. In transportation electrification, biomethane generation, integrated transportation and land use, around the world, step changes in energy and emission activity have been driven by collaborative governance.

Innovative Financial Tools

Impact Investment: Deeper thinking is needed around how the provincial and federal government can use scarce public dollars to leverage the massive private sector financing necessary to finance deep decarbonisation.

Low Friction Financing Instruments: More comprehensive low friction financial tools must be developed, e.g., turn-key bulk purchasing and resale systems, on-bill financing, single window, concierge-supported retrofits.

Managing Fuel Tax Revenue Loss, Surging Car Stock, Congestion and Carbon: Jurisdictions must contend with the loss of fuel tax revenue from transportation electrification. Distance-based road pricing for EVs would offset fuel tax losses while slowly introducing a new regime that also effectively manages congestion, transportation carbon and surging growth in vehicle stock.

Sustainable Land Use
Sustainable land use policies must be better integrated into climate mitigation, this target and indicator regime, and other key provincial mandates, notably affordability. Sustainable land use is overwhelmingly a negative cost solution, i.e., making vs costing money. Decarbonization will be expensive, but approaches too often focus on higher cost solutions while avoiding the low to zero to negative cost solutions.

Double & Triple Word Scores
To win the high stakes game of climate scrabble, B.C. must start playing more double and triple word scores. With some notable exceptions, the vast majority of B.C. climate action policies to date are small, single word scores. Meeting multiple policy objectives with systems solutions is essential to cost-effectively drive change that achieves equity, prosperity and broader environmental outcomes—objectives the B.C. Government has adopted in its ministerial mandates.


Additional key criteria are essential for informing the intensity of targets:

Capital Stock Turnover Rates and Carbon Lock-In
To meet long-term targets, time is of the essence to drive zero and ultra-low emission innovation into new assets, particularly those with long life expectancies and/or stubborn components, e.g., new buildings.

High Emission Growth Rate
Due to the need to meet short-term (2030) atmospheric stabilization imperatives and the absence of progress to date, an urgent priority should be placed on large sectors with emissions that are stubborn (not dropping) or continuing to rise notably, e.g., light duty passenger vehicles and urban freight delivery.

A comprehensive target and indicator framework would help foster collective will and a shared sense of responsibility, as well as deeper literacy and guidance for meeting medium- and long-term GHG reduction targets. This framework could be furthered strengthened by an understanding of the diverse audiences relevant to a valuable target and indicator regime.

Read Renewable Cities’ full submission: Targets, Tactics & Triumph: Strategic Targets & Indicators for CleanBC Success


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