A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton on December 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Hiking carbon tax to $210 cheapest way to hit Canada’s climate targets: commission

The federal price is at $20 per tonne now, and is going up $10 a year in each of the next three years

The Ecofiscal Commission says quadrupling Canada’s carbon price by 2030 is the easiest and most cost-effective way for the country to meet its climate targets.

But the independent think-tank also warns that might be the toughest plan to sell to the public because the costs of carbon taxes are highly visible.

The commission is issuing its final report today after spending the last five years trying to prove to Canadians we can address climate change without killing the economy. The report looks at the options for Canada to toughen climate policies to meet the 2030 goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by almost one-third from where they are now.

The choices include raising the carbon price, introducing new regulations and adding subsidies to encourage and reward greener, cleaner behaviour.

The report concludes that all of those can reduce emissions but that carbon pricing stands out for doing it with the lowest cost to consumers while permitting the most economic growth. It adds that the economic benefits of carbon pricing become even greater if the revenues are returned to Canadians through corporate and personal income-tax cuts, rather than direct household rebates as is done now.

Commission chair Chris Ragan said hiking the carbon price $20 per year between 2022 and 2030, until it hits $210 per tonne, would get Canada to its targets under the Paris Agreement on cutting emissions. That would be on top of the $50-a-tonne price on carbon emissions that will be in place by 2022.

The federal price, in provinces where it applies, is at $20 per tonne now, and is going up $10 a year in each of the next three years.

Rebates would also grow to keep the tax revenue-neutral, the commission said.

The federal Liberals have promised to review the carbon tax in 2022 to determine what happens to it, but have been noncommittal about what that might be.

Canada’s federal tax is only applied in provinces without equivalent provincial systems. Right now those are Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. Alberta will be added in January.

Ragan said regulations and subsidies would also work to cut emissions but are more expensive. Governments lean on regulations and subsidies, however, because their costs are often less visible to voters, making them more politically palatable, at least at first. They still distort the economy, he said, just not as obviously.

“It’s crazy to use high-cost policies if you know that lower cost policies are available,” he said. ”Why would we do that?”

Carbon prices can include fuel taxes and cap-and-trade systems where emissions are restricted and credits must be purchased to emit anything beyond the cap.

Regulations can be either very specific, such as requiring agricultural producers to capture methane from manure or cities to capture methane from landfills, or broad, such as telling industrial emitters they have to find a way to cut emissions in half by a certain date. Subsidies can mean helping people or companies install more efficient lighting and appliances or to buy electric vehicles.

Canada’s current policies are a mix of all three.

Under the Paris accord, Canada committed to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to 511 million tonnes by 2030. In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, Canada emitted 716 million tonnes.

A year ago, Environment and Climate Change Canada said its existing platter of policies leaves the country 79 million tonnes short. Earlier this month the international Climate Transparency organization said Canada was among the three members of the G20 group of big economies that are least likely to hit their 2030 climate targets.

READ MORE: B.C. provided $830M in fossil fuel subsidies in 2017-18: report

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sooke stands up against bullying on Pink Shirt Day

This year’s theme, “Lift Each Other Up” reflects the origins of Pink Shirt Day

Fiddler on the Roof brings timely message to Oak Bay stage

Musical starts Friday in Dave Dunnet Theatre

Rain Walk returns Saturday to raise funds for cancer support

Rain Walk group Team Teal indebted to Inspire Health

Life complicated when water not secure

Water issues have real-life impacts in Sooke Region

UPDATED: Pat Bay Highway blockade ends three hours later

About 80 people from four major Peninsula First Nations blocking major highway

VIDEO: Province promotes ‘lifting each other up’ on 13th annual Pink Shirt Day in Victoria

Students, MLAs, community members gathered at B.C. Parliament Buildings Wednesday

Prepare for new coronavirus like an emergency, health minister advises

About 81,000 people around the world have now become ill with COVID-19

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Winnipeg police investigating graffiti on RCMP and other buildings

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen denounced the vandalism

B.C. seniors’ watchdog calls for better oversight after recent problems at Retirement Concepts care homes

‘There is no financial incentive right now to be a good operator’ - Isobel Mackenzie

Trucking company fined $175K for Kootenay creek fuel spill

Decision handed down last Friday in Nelson court

B.C. Liberals call for ban on foreign funds to pipeline protesters

Sierra Club, Wilderness Committee back Coastal GasLink blockades

Donations pour in for family who lost father, son in fatal crash on B.C. highway

Mike Cochlin and sons Liam and Quinn were travelling on Highway 5A

Vancouver Island RCMP officer assaulted during traffic stop

On Feb. 21, a member of the Comox Valley RCMP was assaulted… Continue reading

Most Read