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Government compliance with the reporting requirements under the Climate Change Accountability Act, S.B.C. 2007, c. 42 is justiciable

March 21, 2023

Administrative law – Decisions reviewed – Ministry of Environment – Reporting requirements – Judicial review – Legislative compliance – Standard of review – Reasonableness – Environmental matters

Sierra Club of British Columbia Foundation v. British Columbia (Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy), [2023] B.C.J. No.80, 2023 BCSC 74, British Columbia Supreme Court, January 17, 2023, J.S. Basran J.

On judicial review, Sierra Club sought declarations that the British Columbia Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy breached his statutory reporting obligations under the Climate Change Accountability Act, S.B.C. 2007, c. 42.

Under the Climate Change Accountability Act, the Minister is obligated to prepare an annual climate accountability report.  The report must contain a description of British Columbia’s plans to continue progress towards the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets established in and pursuant to the Act.  These targets include an industry-specific target for the oil and gas sector of a reduction by 2030 to 33-38% less GHG emissions than 2007 levels, and general targets of: by 2025, 16% less than 2007 levels; by 2030, 40% less than 2007 levels; by 2040, 60% less than 2007 levels; and by 2050, 80% less than 2007 levels.

The Sierra Club alleged that the Minister’s 2021 report did not permit a reader to understand how British Columbia is continuing progress towards the targets, and did not contain plans for British Columbia to continue progress towards the targets.  More specifically, Sierra Club’s position was that the Minister was required to provide an explanation of how far each of British Columbia’s emissions reduction policies continued progress towards each of the targets; and that the Minister was required to provide quantitatively detailed GHG emissions estimates for all target years.

A threshold issue was whether the sufficiency of the Minister’s report was justiciable.

The Court held that the nature and extent of the B.C. government’s reporting on progress towards its climate change targets was justiciable because the question involved determining the reasonable interpretation of legislation establishing the obligations of a statutory decision maker.  The Court was satisfied that the clarity of the requirements for the report set out in the Act indicated that the legislature intended those obligations to be enforceable by the Courts.  Further, the Court held there was nothing inherently political in the extent of the information required under the Act.

The Court then considered the merits of the judicial review; whether the Minister acted reasonably and met his statutory obligations in respect of the information included in the report.

The Court held that the Minister met the reporting obligations under the Act.  The parties agreed that the Minister met his reporting obligations with respect to the 2030 target.  With respect to the other targets, the Court held that the Minister’s report reasonably complied with the statutory obligation to report on plans and policies expected to continue progress towards those targets.  Further, the Court held that detailed qualitative information sought by Sierra Club with respect to the 2040 and 2050 targets was not required under the Act.

This case was digested by Emilie LeDuc, and first published in the LexisNexis® Harper Grey Administrative Law Netletter and the Harper Grey Administrative Law Newsletter.  If you would like to discuss this case further, please contact Emilie LeDuc at [email protected].

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Emilie LeDuc
Emilie LeDuc

Research Associate & Director of Professional Development

604.895.2829

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Important Notice: The information contained in this Article is intended for general information purposes only and does not create a lawyer-client relationship. It is not intended as legal advice from Harper Grey LLP or the individual author(s), nor intended as a substitute for legal advice on any specific subject matter. Detailed legal counsel should be sought prior to undertaking any legal matter. The information contained in this Article is current to the last update and may change. Last Update: March 21, 2023.

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