Research links carbon-footprint size to income in B.C.

British Columbia’s richest residents emit a higher share of greenhouse gases than their less wealthy counterparts, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Detailed in a brief released today (April 22), research by the non-profit organization suggests that the more an individual earns, the larger their carbon footprint will be based on direct and indirect emissions data from 2005.

Given the findings, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives argues that some carbon-reduction strategies—such as a carbon tax—can place an unfair burden on lower-income British Columbians, who produce fewer emissions on an individual basis.

As an alternative, the brief recommends that policy makers focus on setting per capita targets for reductions and reform how carbon tax credits are distributed.

“A key challenge in moving ahead is political resistance to greater equality as an endpoint,” the brief reads. “It may take more than one decade to get to equal per capita emissions, and this objective could meet with fierce opposition from the highest emitters.”

The brief, titled By Our Own Emissions: The Distribution of GHGs in BC, was created as part of longer-term project of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, an independent research group with an office in Vancouver.

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RodSmelser

Apr 22, 2010 at 12:50pm

Making the tax system more regressive has been one of the ulterior motives behind the demand for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, as opposed to a cap and trade system.

The idea is to lower income tax rates in compensation, but as carbon taxes rise over time, and the very lowest income groups have had their income taxes reduced to zero, the opportunity arises for substantial income reductions at the top end, while those at the bottom face increasing carbon (sales) taxes, but no further income tax reductions.

This feature of the policy, an extension of the revenue neutral element, is no accident, and provides a powerful motivation for upper income individuals, such as university professors, to support the carbon tax. And they do, unanimously.

It would be very, very interesting if the Straight could get a comment on this CCPA study from a spokesperson for either the David Suzuki Foundation or the Pembina Institute.

Rod Smelser