B.C. takes important lead with carbon tax

The Canadian province of British Columbia announced yesterday that it will introduce a carbon tax that will apply to nearly all fossil fuels sold in the province, including gasoline and home heating fuel. The tax will start at $10 (Canadian) per tonne of carbon emissions in 2008 and be increased by increments of $5 annually over the next few years until it reaches $30. The tax will be complemented by a carbon cap-and-trade system that will be introduced as part of B.C.’s alliance with several U.S states and Canadian provinces.

Finally: Leadership.

The province said the tax will be revenue-neutral. About $1.8 billion raised from the tax over the next three years will go toward personal income and business tax cuts. A $100 climate action dividend will also be given to citizens once a year, with the idea being that the money saved from income-tax cuts and returned through the dividend will go toward conservation and improving energy efficiency. Citizens will also get more tax breaks for purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles and appliances.

Now, I should point out that Quebec introduced a carbon tax last year, but the money collected from it goes back to the government and is eventually targeted at green technology initiatives. It’s not clear to me whether this approach is more effective or not. I like the idea of a revenue-neutral tax that benefits people who reduce their environmental footprint and penalizes those who increase it, but an income tax cut needs to come with some strings attached or at least some kind of program that encourages investment of those savings into energy efficiency and renewables.

What I like about B.C.’s approach — and Quebec’s before it — is that they’re ignoring the rhetoric coming out of our federal government that a carbon tax will hurt the economy. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has consistently dismissed the idea of introducing a national carbon tax, and has warned against burdening business with a patchwork of provincial rules and carbon taxes.

The B.C. government’s response: “We made the decision to not wait for consensus.”

Consensus is the killer. Consensus is what the United Nations is about, and all the international climate meetings that lead to nothing. Consensus is a tool of delay. It’s nice to see a government realize that breaking away from the pursuit of consensus is what Canadians — and I venture to argue most Americans — truly want. B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell said he won’t pressure other provinces to follow, but he hopes that B.C.’s move will demonstrate to others that it’s the right move and that it will create economic opportunities.

So do I. The fact is, a carbon tax is the quickest and most efficient way to influence change in the market. Cap-and-trade, while effective if designed properly, in my view should only be considered afterward as a complement. The problem with cap-and-trade is that it’s complicated and tends to reward lawyers, accountants and bureaucrats the most.

My only reservation about B.C.’s carbon tax? While it is expected to hit 70 per cent of all greenhouse gas emission sources in the province, the tax won’t immediately apply to industry and power producers, including oil/gas industry and cement makers. The province argues it needs more time to figure out a proper model. I think this is a mistake — if a government wants its citizens to accept a tax on personal consumption they have to show they’re equally ready to apply the same rules to industry.

That said, here’s hoping that the decision to impose carbon taxes in Quebec and now B.C. will infect other parts of the continent. Mr. McGuinty, now is the perfect time for Ontario to step up to the plate.

As for the feds, here’s hoping the White House and Parliament Hill wake up and realize this is real, and that now is the time to harmonize with the provinces and states that appear leap years ahead.

6 thoughts on “B.C. takes important lead with carbon tax”

  1. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a carbon tax, however BC’s carbon tax will do nothing other than shift income around.
    We will charge carbon dioxide producer’s extra to produce carbon dioxide, then we will turn around and give that money back to those producer’s so that they can do what? They will now have more disposable income with which to pay for … you guessed it producing the same amount of carbon dioxide.
    The proceeds of a carbon tax should go exclusively to paying for non carbon dioxide producing forms of power production and conservation measures. Anything else will just make the money whiz around faster in the system without reducing carbon dioxide emissions one bit.

  2. This is great news! Polluting our environment with carbon should be taxed and taxed heavily. The problem of global warming is not something that can be delayed – the 2020, 30, 50 timelines are a joke. We need to force industry to innovate NOW. Just watch how fast they can find solutions when they are charged a carbon tax.

    I agree with Tyler that it needs to be applied immediately to industry and power producers. Otherwise its no different than building a prison and only using it to house those who steal but letting all the murderers go free.

    Check out this video on how fast the arctic is melting.

    http://www.livescience.com/php/video/player.php?video_id=arctic_ice_cap

    Jason

  3. Apply a carbon tax to industry and power producers? Why would government want to bite the hand that feeds them? No, I’m afraid this global warming/climate change swindle is only meant to rob the middle class and the poor of what little disposable income they still have.

    Previous gas hikes haven’t deterred drivers from using their vehicles and neither will this one, simply because we still have to drive. We may all contribute to climate change to some degree but ask yourself why the biggest polluters and contaminators of the environment aren’t being singled out and held accountable, morally and monetarily?

    Have you ever heard Gore or the other pseudo-environmentalists admonish the mining, energy, forestry or chemical industries? P.E.T.A. claims that the meat industry is responsible for more pollution than all vehicular traffic combined. What about the airline industry with their thousands of planes flying daily, burning upwards of 30,000 gallons of fuel on take off alone. Has anyone been measuring the toxic waste this multi-billion dollar cartel produces?

    If the “green credit” system that David Suzuki and others are marketing to the masses had any merit, Canadian citizens should be reaping the riches from other nations purchasing credits from us, due to our vast wilderness and “carbon sinks” we’ve been blessed with.

    But no, the only credit we receive is being the first to be punished for utilizing the limited sources of fuel that are economically available. And why do you think that is, when as early as 1890 there were already solar powered steam engines and electric and hybrid vehicles on the streets? Over 100 years later and here we are, still commuting in vehicles powered by ancient internal combustion engines that depend on a resource that’s limited, highly-polluting and now becoming very expensive.

    Speaking of Al Gore, I understand his “carbon footprint” is 20x that of the average person and that his gas and electric bills for his mansion and guest house average over $2300 per month. Not much of a role model for the carbon-neutral life style, huh?

    I recently watched his movie when a friend loaned me a copy. I would have never bothered otherwise as I had already figured him to be a power-hungry political opportunist, who in this case was simply taking advantage of a natural cosmic cycle. Within the first 15 minutes of the movie he was already spewing the “carbon tax” line and pointing the finger at the general public. I guess that wasn’t enough of a clue for some to realize his true agenda.

    So look forward to paying more for your food, utilities, services, taxes and whatever else government and business can green wash you with. If you happen to be celebrating this latest bit of political thievery and welcoming another hit to your pocketbook, just remember who killed the electric car – and the fact that Mars is heating up too.

  4. You just got to get real. How is ignoring the obivious economic hardship placed on families a good thing? Don’t you read the news? Gas is sky high with no end in sight. So how is the tax good? Maybe the BC government will encourage the opening up of more organizations like Quest and middle class families who can’t come up with money for food because of the high cost of groceries can now shop there also. You won’t get any nutrition out of the expired food products which are shelved for the poor to buy but heck its better than starving I guess.

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