Today in Question Period I asked the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy why the NDP government did not communicate the contents of a climate risk assessment report that was released this past summer, and how his ministry is working with FLNRORD ministry to ensure forests in the future will mitigae climate change effects rather than exacerbate them.
S. Furstenau: Earlier this summer the government quietly released the Preliminary Strategic Risk Assessment for B.C. It was a dramatic document that outlined future climate risk for the province: frequent flooding, more wildfires, longer periods of drought, sustained heatwaves and long-term water shortages, among others.
While I credit the government for engaging in climate risk assessment, I and my colleagues were puzzled by the lack of attention the government gave this preliminary assessment. British Columbians are concerned and want to know as much as possible about the climate crisis. Tens of thousands of people were marching in the streets just a few weeks ago, demanding climate action.
These types of reports need to be communicated widely to British Columbians so that they can understand the risks we are facing and why ambitious climate action is necessary.
My question is to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy: why did the government not communicate this report widely to British Columbians?
Hon. G. Heyman: Thank you to the House Leader of the Third Party for not only the question but for the important focus that she and her colleagues, as well as all members on this side of the House, place on this critical issue of addressing the threat of climate change. In fact….
Hon. G. Heyman: I don’t even that know I’ve said anything worthy of heckling yet.
But, in fact, taking seriously the scientific reports and studies about the risks of climate change is what resulted in our confidence and supply agreement that has brought British Columbians good governance on a whole range of issues, including this one.
The climate risk assessment that we performed indeed revealed the very significant risks of heatwaves, forest fires, seasonal water shortage, flooding and drought that the member raises. It is not in my interest or this government’s interest to not have British Columbians know about this study. In fact, it is a central part of our commitment to develop, by 2020, a climate risk preparedness and adaptation strategy, and that is exactly what we are doing.
We consulted with the following organizations prior to releasing this study: the Union of B.C. Municipalities environmental committee, the B.C. Business Council, the Municipal Insurance Association of B.C., Asset Management B.C., our climate solutions council. Webinars were held for Indigenous organizations, the financial sector and external adaptation partners. We believe and we count on British Columbians understanding the risks that we face as the reason that we’re bringing in CleanBC policies today and in the future.
Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Third Party on a supplemental.
S. Furstenau: Clearly, the minister is proud of the work that they did. It doesn’t quite answer the question of why the report was quietly released without even a press release to indicate that it was being put out. I do look forward to reading the further reports that are coming. The 15 specific climate risk events are bad enough on their own, but when combined, they give new meaning to the word “catastrophic,” and I think we have to come to terms with that. We know these risks are coming. We know that what we do today matters.
One of the things that is crystal clear is the need to change our relationship with how we manage our forests, as they are one of our best protections against the risks of climate change. Whether it is overharvesting that increases the chances of floods in communities or the combination of clear-cut logging and inadequate restoration of cutblocks contributing to more severe wildfires and flood risks, logging practices must be reformed to mitigate climate risk. We can’t do this soon enough.
My question is to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. How is he working with the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to ensure that forests in the future will mitigate climate effects rather than exacerbate them?
Hon. G. Heyman: Thank you, again, to the House Leader of the Third Party for this question, as well as for her ongoing work with us on this issue.
She’s quite correct. Forests have a critical role to play in sequestering carbon, in mitigating the impacts of a changing climate and protecting community watersheds and biodiversity. That’s why our government, through the Minister of Forests, invested $196 million in wildfire risk reduction, reforestation and forest rehabilitation. That’s why, through the community resiliency investment program, we provided $60 million to support local governments and Indigenous nations to mitigate wildfire threats near their communities. We’ve also invested $10 million to help develop a more comprehensive prescribed burning program, one that incorporates traditional, ecological and Indigenous knowledge.
It’s also why I am working closely with the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and other ministries on the environment and land use commission as we go forward with a comprehensive land use planning program that takes into account all of the values of forests, particularly with relationship to the climate risks that we know are severe.