British Columbia: Environment profile


This information was current as of November 2015.

Flag of British Columbia

British Columbia (BC) in brief

Hon. Christy Clark (Liberal Party)
4,631,300 (2014)
Total Area:
944,735 km 2
925,186 km 2
19,549 km 2
Real GDP (gross domestic product) 2013:
$215.2 billion (in 2007 dollars)
Contribution to real Canadian GDP 2013:

BC budget 2015-16

Budgeted total expenditures:
$45.8 billion
Funds allocated to Minister of Environment (MoE):
$150 million
  • 0.3% of total budget
  • 12.6% increase from 2014-15

Key environmental federal-provincial agreements

  • Canada-BC agreement for Environmental Assessment Cooperation
  • Canada-BC Environmental Occurrences Notification Agreement
  • Canada-BC Water Quality Monitoring Agreement
  • Water Survey & Canada-BC Agreement for Hydrometric Monitoring
  • Canada-BC Agreement on Species at Risk

Climate change

Departments responsible for climate change:
Ministry of Environment, Climate Action Secretariat
Minister responsible for climate change:
Hon. Mary Polak
Legislation and regulations:
Greenhouse Gas Reductions Target Act, Greenhouse Gas Reductions (Cap and Trade) Act and reporting regulations, Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Vehicle Emissions Standards) Act, 2008 Utilities Commission Amendment Act, Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Requirements) Act, Carbon Tax Act, Clean Energy Act, Landfill Gas Regulation, Emission Offsets Regulations, Local Government (Green Communities) Statutes Amendment Act, Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act

BC’s GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and 2020 target

Line graph for BC’s GHG emissions and 2020 target


  • National Inventory Report (2015)
  • 2020 target: Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target Act (2007)
Long description

Figure 1 presents a single time series line graph with the horizontal axis spanning the years 1990 to 2030 in five year increments. The vertical axis is Mt CO2 eq and spans the value of 40 to 70 in increments of 5. The starting value in 1990 is 51.9 Mt, increasing to 64.9 Mt in 2000 before declining to 64.4 Mt in 2005 and 60.2 Mt in 2010, increasing to 62.8 Mt in 2013.  The provincial 2020 target of 42.5 Mt is noted.

Provincial GHG emissions reduction targets

  • 6% below 2007 in 2012
  • 18% below 2007 levels in 2016
  • 33% below 2007 levels by 202080% below 2007 by 2050
  • 2020 Target Equivalent to a 2005 baseline: 34% below

BC’s sources of GHG emissions, 2013

Pie chart for BC’s sources of GHG emissions, 2013

Source: National Inventory Report, 2015

Long description

Figure 2 presents a pie chart of the distribution of major greenhouse gas sources in British Columbia.

  • Stationary combustion sources: 35%
  • Transport: 39%
  • Fugitive sources: 9%
  • Industrial processes: 5%
  • Agriculture: 4%
  • Waste: 8%
  • Climate change strategies: BC’s Climate Action Plan (2008), Greenhouse Carbon Tax Relief Fund (2013)
  • Total BC emmissions, 2013: 62.8 metric tonnes (Mt) (Source: National Inventory Report, 2015)
  • BC contribution to total Canadian GHG emissions, 2013: 8.7 %
  • Ranked 5th largest GHG emitter among Canadian provinces and territories in 2013
  • GHG per capita, 2012: 13.2 tonnes; ranked 3rd lowest GHG emitter per capita, 2012
  • BC will release a draft Climate Leadership Plan in December 2015; final plan expected in March 2016.
  • BC’s 2014 Progress Report announced that BC attained its 2012 target of 6% below 2007 emissions.
  • BC is the only jurisdiction in Canada with a carbon tax. Introduced in 2008, the current rate is $30 per tonne, and covers about 70% of BC’s emissions.
  • BC has a legislated requirement for 93% or more clean electricity generation.
  • Carbon Neutral Government Regulation requires public sector to reduce and offset emissions to a net-zero balance.


Departments responsible for water:
Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Ministry of Health
Minister responsible for water:
Hon. Mary Polack
Legislation and regulations:
The BC Water Sustainability Act received royal assent on May 29, 2014 and will come into effect in 2016 at which time it will replace the BC Water Act as the primary water legislation in the province; BC Water Act, BC Environmental Management Act, Agricultural Waste Control Regulation, BC Drinking Water Protection Act, Dike Maintenance Act, Fish Protection Act, Water Protection Act, Forest and Range Practices Act, Water Utility Act, Health Act, Drainage, Ditch and Dikes Act, Parks Act, Water Sustainability Act
  • Water strategies: BC Northeast Water Strategy (2015), Living Water Smart (2008), Water Stewardship Division Strategic Plan (2008), BC Marine Oil Spill Prevention and Preparedness (2002)
  • MoE provides policy oversight, formulates legislation and non-regulatory frameworks, conducts sustainable water resource planning and management activi-ties, and provides scientific information and data management systems.
  • Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) is responsible for administering water rights and legislation. It supports MoE on flood risk management issues and hydrologic forecasting.
  • Ministry of Health (MoH) is responsible for management drinking water health and safety.
  • Municipalities and local organizations such as water suppliers are responsible for community-scale water management with MoH oversight on drinking water quality.
  • Priority issues include completing marine and land based heavy oil spill response studies, pursuing groundwater protection measures through planned implementation of the new BC Water Sustainability Act, review of pricing scheme for permitted water extraction and use, development of a long-term approach for the sustainable use and management of water resources in Northeast BC, ensuring revenues from fishing licences are directed to the Freshwater Fisheries Society for conservation purposes by 2015-16, and releasing an annual water use report for companies involved in hydraulic fracturing.

Environment Canada and BC collaboration on water

  • Marine Water Quality Monitoring
  • Abbotsford–Sumas Aquifer
  • Columbia River Treaty Review
  • Canadian Columbia River Forum
  • Columbia Integrated Environment Monitoring Program
  • Fraser Basin Council Watershed and Water Resources Committee
  • Okanagan Water Stewardship Council
  • Mackenzie River Basin Board
  • Review of selenium levels

Biodiversity and wildlife

Department responsible for biodiversity and wildlife:
Ministry of Environment
Minister responsible for biodiversity and wildlife:
Hon. Mary Polack
Fish Protection Act, Wildlife Act of British Columbia, Environmental (Species and Public Protection) Amendment Act, Forest and Range Practices Act, Protected Areas of British Columbia Act
  • Biodiversity and conservation strategies: Protecting Vulnerable Species: A Five-year Plan for Species at Risk in British Columbia (2014), Invasive Species Strategy for BC (2012), Conservation Framework (2009), Identified Wildlife Management Strategy (2004)
Species at Risk in BC
(SARA “Schedule 1” Status)
  Extirpated Endangered Threatened Special Concern
Total: 192
Source: Species at Risk Public Registry
January 2015
7 101 39 45
  • BC’s Conservation Framework coordinates efforts to conserve species and ecosystems across government and non-government sectors by focusing the allocation of resources to yield the best conservation outcomes. It uses clearly defined scientific criteria to determine priorities and the most appropriate management actions for species and ecosystems of conservation concern.
  • Percentage of freshwater and land protected in BC: 15.7% (Source: Canadian Environment Sustainability Indicators, 2013).
  • Environment Canada maintains 12 protected areas in BC, including 5 National Wildlife Areas and 7 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, comprising over 5,000 hectares of BC’s protected lands and waters.
  • BC is Canada’s most biologically diverse province. It is home to the most native species and subspecies in Canada, including 1,258 vertebrates, 3,190 vascular plants, 4,500 marine invertebrates and over 35,000 insects. There are over 360 bird species in BC, of which 55% breed nowhere else in Canada. There are 136 species of mammals in BC, representing 75% of Canada’s mammal species.
  • 5.6% of BC land is classified as wetland. Most wildlife in BC use wetland habitat at some point in their life cycle (Source: BC Ecosystems Branch).
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