B.C. in no position to stonewall on national carbon pricing plan

Blog - Dec. 9, 2016 - By Matt Horne

With Canada’s first credible national climate change plan within reach, now is not the time to be watering down core policies that would help reduce emissions. That’s why the federal government should reject Premier Christy Clark’s posturing on carbon pricing and stick to the pan-Canadian carbon price committed to in October.

When Prime Minister Trudeau announced the national carbon-pricing plan from the House of Commons, he provided provinces with an immense amount of flexibility to comply with the plan. Provinces can implement their own carbon pricing system, or they can allow the federal government to do so for them (as the Yukon plans to do). Provinces can choose between implementing a carbon tax, or implementing cap-and-trade. And, importantly, provinces retain full control over the use of all carbon pricing revenue levied in their jurisdiction.

B.C. has all of those same options. It can choose to increase its carbon tax in line with, or ahead of, the federal price floor — an approach that would allow B.C. to have its carbon tax freeze run up to nine years. It could adopt a cap-and-trade system like Quebec with a cap at least as stringent as Canada’s 2030 target (30% below 2005 levels). It could probably even go back to the hybrid model that the province originally envisioned – with a carbon tax applied to heating and transportation fuels and cap-and-trade applied to industry.

Instead of continuing to make flawed claims of its climate leadership, B.C. would be better served picking an approach that meets the national standard. B.C. has work left to do to get its own house in order: the province still doesn’t have a 2030 target despite year-old advice from the premier’s advisory panel to establish one. And where B.C. does have targets, the picture isn’t good. The province will miss its 2020 target by a wide margin because it has stalled on new actions since 2012, and there is a massive gap between its 2050 target and projections based on current policies.

When Prime Minister Trudeau announced the national carbon-pricing plan, our view was that the growing incentive to cut carbon pollution would be a big positive for the country from coast to coast to coast. It was also a clear fit with the climate and clean growth ambitions that the first ministers agreed to in the Vancouver Declaration. Let’s make sure it stays that way by sticking to the plan.

This article appeared in the Georgia Straight.


Matt Horne

Matt Horne was the Pembina Institute's associate regional director for British Columbia until 2016.


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