B.C exporting carbon emissions with coal sales to Far EastPutting myself in a situation where I may be accused of civil disobedience is not something I have ever done before
Until they got arrested together on a fateful Saturday in May, economist Marc Jaccard, who advised Premier Gordon Campbell on the carbon tax, had never met long-ago BC Federation of Labour president Ray Haynes, a thorn in the side of former NDP premier Dave Barrett.
Their gathering with 12 other strangers near Burlington Northern Sante Fe railway tracks in White Rock would have been unremarkable had they not stood in the path of a 125-car unit train carrying 13,000 tonnes of American coal headed for Roberts Bank.
The train had to stop. The police had to arrest them. They were later released upon payment of a modest fine.
The confrontation on the freight line to Westshore Terminals signalled a new stage in the battle over climate change and B.C.’s economic future.
The protest threw down a gauntlet against the dramatic expansion of coal mining at the heart of the provincial government’s economic strategy.
A sustained campaign of civil disobedience at Westshore, particularly by such personalities as Jaccard and Haynes, would quickly acquire the prominence of another Clayoquot struggle, but this time with the fate of the planet in the balance, not just old-growth forest.
A report by the Dogwood Initiative – B.C.’s Dirty Secret: Big Coal and the Export of Global-Warming Pollution – calculates that greenhouse gases released by burning B.C. coal in China, Korea and Japan, both for energy and steel-making, will nearly double B.C.’s contribution to global warming. And B.C.’s existing mines are soon to be joined by as many as 18 more.
Yet none of these emissions is counted in B.C.’s climate action plan because they occur offshore. To the Dogwood Initiative, this is akin to cocaine cartels saying they’re not accountable for crime and addiction in export markets.
It’s not surprising to see the octogenarian Haynes in a protest or on a picket line. It’s the story of his life.
But SFU professor Jaccard, chairman of the BC Utilities Commission from 1992 to 1997, winner of many academic awards and a member of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is not normally led away in handcuffs.
“Putting myself in a situation where I may be accused of civil disobedience is not something I have ever done before,” Jaccard said in a statement. “It is not something I ever expected to be doing or wanted to do.
“But the willingness of especially our federal government to brazenly take actions that ensure we cannot meet scientifically and economically sound greenhouse gas reduction targets for Canada and the planet leaves me with no alternative.”
Jaccard has long believed humanity must dramatically reduce use of fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic global warming. He believes expansion of the oilsands and natural gas coal production must be reversed.
His conviction that the federal government knows that its policies cannot achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals – “I know they are lying” – tipped him from analysis to action.
There’s no future in an economic strategy based on killing the planet, says Jaccard, but huge gains available from investing in green technologies.
Clearly, he and others are prepared to put themselves on the line to force that shift. •