The B.C. government was honoured at an international conference last week as a leader in climate change for its revenue-neutral carbon tax.
The United Nations presented British Columbia with one of 13 Momentum for Change awards on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at a Low-Emissions Solutions Conference in Morocco.
“The United Nations has … identified our revenue-neutral carbon tax as a model that jurisdictions around the world may want to consider. It’s something that clearly works. It’s simple, it’s transparent and it’s effective in reducing emissions, while at the same time allowing the economy to grow,” said B.C. Parliamentary Secretary for Energy Literacy and the Environment Jordan Sturdy, who is also the federal MLA for the Sea to Sky.
British Columbia was the first jurisdiction in North American to implement a carbon tax back in 2008. The tax covers most types of fuel use and carbon emissions, roughly 70 per cent of the province’s total emissions.
Independent studies have found that the tax has led to a 16-per-cent drop in fuel use per capita between 2008 and 2012 in B.C., while fuel use has risen across the rest of Canada.
Although widely lauded for its innovative carbon tax, not all are satisfied with Victoria’s recent approach to climate change.
“While B.C.'s carbon tax should be celebrated, the province's recent track record on climate action should not,” said Josha MacNab, B.C. director at the Pembina Institute, in a release. “The new climate plan that B.C. put forward in August of this year fell flat, especially from a province that used to be a climate leader. The plan doesn't see emissions start to decline until 2030 and only slowly at that — far too little and far too late for B.C. to do its fair share in the Canadian effort.”
Critics of the climate plan questioned why it didn’t include an increase to the carbon tax as was recommended in a report last fall that was commissioned by the B.C. Liberals. But Premier Christy Clark said the tax hike wasn’t feasible, underlining the need to balance environmental priorities with economic ones. The tax has remained frozen at $30/tonne since 2012. Clark has also committed not to do anything to the tax until Ottawa finalizes a national agreement on carbon pricing.
Others have also criticized Victoria for walking back on its earlier emissions targets. Last fall’s climate report found that the province would fail to meet its earlier goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020, and recommended B.C. focus on targets for 2030 and 2050.
The province has adopted the long-term goal of dropping emissions by 80 per cent of 2007 levels by 2050, while avoiding a concrete target for 2030.
To learn more about B.C.’s carbon tax, visit: www.fin.gov.bc.ca/tbs/tp/climate/carbon_tax.htm.