Plenty of positive signals from B.C. on climate change

Blog - May 11, 2011 - By Matt Horne

About a month ago, there was concern that the wheels could be coming off British Columbia's efforts to build a clean energy economy.  In particular, B.C.'s continued involvement in the Western Climate Initiative's cap-and-trade system looked to be at risk. Thankfully, recent statements from B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark and NDP candidate David Eby — contests in today's Point Grey by-election — tell a different story.

At a high-level, both candidates clearly support continued leadership from B.C. to tackle climate change. Compared to some of the debates we see in other parts of North America, it's a good starting point when political parties agree that climate change is a problem that we need to solve.

Given the negative speculation regarding B.C.'s involvement in cap-and-trade, Clarke and Eby's commitments to move ahead with the system are notable. Both candidates want B.C. to lead the way, and their statements demonstrate a commitment to having B.C. ready to go for the start of that system early in 2012. There's still a lot of work to do to make sure we get the rules right for 2012, but those rules will only get set if we stay in the game.

Both candidates also made some important statements about the future of the carbon tax. They are both committed to the current schedule of increases to 2012, and both have raised the possibility of using revenues to help fund priorities like transit. David Eby has also stressed the importance of protecting low-income families and making sure the carbon tax doesn't give any polluters a free ride. Neither of them has talked about increasing the price of  the carbon tax after 2012, but they haven't closed that door either.

Whatever the outcome of today's Point Grey by-election, both parties will need to follow-through and build upon these commitments. For cap-and-trade, regulations need to be implemented soon if B.C. is going to meet the 2012 deadline. For the carbon tax, any changes to the way revenue is invested, or how it increases after 2012, should be decided this year.

Looking beyond the debates in Point Grey and Victoria, it's important to recognize the breadth of support for strong action on climate change and clean energy in B.C. Through the recent leadership races, and through Christy Clark's transition to premier, businesses, civil society groups and local governments have been very supportive. Business leaders (see their letters here and here), mayors, academics, environmental groups, faith leaders, students and youth groups have all chimed in, voicing their support for continued climate leadership in B.C. as well as recommendations for next steps.

As one of those supportive voices, and as someone who cares deeply about finding solutions to the climate crisis we're facing, it's encouraging to know how many other British Columbians are also calling for those solutions to be put into action. It seems that our politicians just might be listening.

Matt Horne

Matt Horne is the Pembina Institute's associate regional director for British Columbia. He is based in Vancouver.


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