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  • Throne speech fails to deliver for Indigenous Nations, forests and species at risk

    Jens Wieting

    TODAY’S THRONE SPEECH started by acknowledging the heatwave, fires and floods of 2021 but didn’t offer assurances that this BC government is ready to do its part to prevent even worse disasters in the future.

    In the speech, the province claimed it has set strong climate targets and that it has a plan that builds on progress towards meeting said targets. Both claims are not true. BC’s targets are not consistent with what is needed if we are to have a chance at meeting the Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming below 1.5 to 2 degrees. To make matters worse, BC’s emissions have increased every single year for the last five years that we have records for, from 2015 to 2019. And by subsidizing and welcoming the construction of LNG Canada and the Coastal GasLink pipeline, it is almost certain that BC. will not be able to meet its 2025, 2030, 2040 or 2050 targets. To protect future generations, these projects must be stopped.

    The Throne speech acknowledged the role of protecting forests as another key to tackling climate change but fell short on concrete steps to deliver the implementation of all recommendations made by the Old Growth Panel, a key election promise made by Premier Horgan in the fall of 2020. Close to 18 months later, most at-risk old-growth forests in BC remain without temporary or permanent protection.

    Indigenous Nations and forestry dependent communities remain uncertain as to whether the province will provide adequate funding to support them through the necessary transition. It is not too late for the province to include much needed funding to enable Indigenous-led conservation solutions and support forestry workers in the 2022 budget announcement later this month.

    The throne speech also announced the launch of a new ministry in the coming months to improve stewardship of lands and make the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act a reality. A new ministry may well serve these goals, but nothing will change without the political will to respect the rights of all Indigenous Nations, including those that oppose new fossil fuel pipeline projects through their territory like the Wet’suwet’en.

    The province can demonstrate its commitment to responsible stewardship by enacting Species-At-Risk or Biodiversity legislation, by addressing the missing recommendations on professional reliance reform, by implementing all of the recommendations from the Old-Growth Panel and following through on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, with or without a new ministry.

    Jens Wieting is Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner for Sierra Club BC.

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