Premier Christy Clark has signalled it might not be long before the government breaks from a freeze on the province’s carbon tax.
“We are considering raising the carbon tax,” Clark said this morning (March 2), according to a message posted on Twitter by York University professor Tzeporah Berman. Speaking at the Globe 2016 Leadership Summit where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance, Clark added that B.C. would also “protect competitiveness and communities”.
In a telephone interview, Josha MacNab, B.C. director for the Pembina Institute, told the Straight the premier’s remarks indicate the province could be ready to resume actions to fight climate change that she described as stalled in recent years.
“It is extremely encouraging to hear from the premier that she is and that they are seriously considering the increase in carbon tax,” MacNab said. “Up until now, we hadn’t heard such a clear statement coming from the premier about their intentions with the climate leadership team recommendations.”
That was a reference to a policy document drafted by representatives from industry, First Nations,and the environmental sector, which was submitted to the provincial government last October.
Among 32 recommendations, the group, called the climate leadership team, suggests B.C. increase its carbon tax by $10 per tonne each year beginning in 2018, and that those increases be reviewed in five years’ time. It also states the tax should be broadened to cover greenhouse-gas emissions for which it does not currently apply.
MacNab said that’s an achievable target and a change that can be implemented without negatively impacting the economy.
She noted that B.C’s carbon tax has remained at $30 per tonne since 2012. Environmental organizations have called for a slow but gradual increase to as much as $150 per tonne over the long term.
MacNab argued if B.C. wants to maintain its self-described role as a leader on climate change, it will have to resume increases on the carbon tax.
“This renewed focus from the federal government and from other provinces makes this a prime moment for B.C to step up,” she said.
Speaking to CBC News today, B.C. environmental minister Mary Polak defended the government’s record on climate change.
“We still have one of the world’s highest and broadest carbon taxes,” she said, “we are still the only jurisdiction in North America to be carbon neutral across our public sector, we are still the ones who are leading in terms of electricity production.”
Polak conceded B.C. has more work to do if it is to meet its own targets for greenhouse-gas reductions. She said the province is reviewing the climate leadership team’s recommendations as they are outlined in the group’s report.
“We have to continue to press forward,” she said.
At the same time, Polak argued the province should continue to try and expand its exports of liquefied natural gas.
The Globe 2016 Leadership Summit continues in Vancouver. At the time of writing, Polak was in Gastown meeting with her counterparts from across the country and Canadian minister of environment Catherine McKenna.