Chilly climate for B.C. carbon plan

B.C.’s carbon emission trading plan died last week at the age of four. No service was announced.

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former B.C. premier at climate conference in Copenhagen

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former B.C. premier at climate conference in Copenhagen

VICTORIA – B.C.’s carbon emission trading plan died last week at the age of four. No service was announced.

The end came as the B.C. capital hosted politicians from neighbouring U.S. states and western provinces for their annual economic conference. Washington, Oregon, Montana, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico followed through with plans to withdraw from the Western Climate Initiative, leaving California, B.C., and theoretically Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec to come up with a trading system to put further costs on greenhouse gas emissions.

Fossil fuel kingpins Alberta and Saskatchewan wanted nothing to do with the WCI from the beginning, when it set a goal of 15-per-cent reduction in emissions by 2020.

This leaves B.C. as the only jurisdiction in North America with a carbon tax, and an emission reduction target twice as ambitious – 33 per cent by 2020. Because of that tax, all B.C.’s border states and provinces have an economic advantage for emitting industries. And with natural gas development booming and population growing, B.C.’s emissions continue upward.

Industry representatives gave the legislature finance committee the view from ground level. Take farming.

“None of our competitors have a carbon tax,” Garnet Etsell of the B.C. Agriculture Council told the committee’s Chilliwack hearing. “This has cost us, to date, with the last increase, $45 million a year. With the increase that’s anticipated in 2012, that’ll be $65 million. Keep in mind that the agriculture industry last year had a cumulative net loss of $80 million.”

B.C.’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters are the petroleum and cement manufacturing industries. They only pay the tax on fuel while significant process emissions are tax-exempt. But even that is stimulating demand for cement imported from outside B.C., This not only hurts domestic producers, it adds emissions via trucking or rail shipping.

Then there is B.C.’s “carbon neutral public sector,” where provincial and local governments are forced to buy carbon offsets. The Pacific Carbon Trust then funds emission-reduction projects for big emitters such as gas plants in the northeast.

So five years on, that’s the upshot of Gordon Campbell’s lofty goal to lead the world in climate action. We’re hurting our own agriculture and manufacturing, and transferring scarce funds from hospitals, senior care homes and schools to subsidize profitable energy corporations. And emissions are still rising.

It’s no wonder the finance committee has recommended major changes to Finance Minister Kevin Falcon. He should cap the carbon tax at the 2012 rate. He should “address the inequity for B.C. cement producers,” and also “consider immediate carbon tax exclusions for agriculture, including the greenhouse sector, and public institutions.”

Falcon allowed last week that B.C.’s competitive position must be considered, now that U.S. President Barack Obama has reversed himself on the need for an emission trading system that would have levelled the North American playing field. Look for changes when Falcon tables his first budget in February.

Does this mean B.C.’s climate strategy is dead? No. Delegates from U.S. states and Alberta gathered in front of the legislature to kick the tires on B.C.’s newest weapon, natural gas-powered vehicles. Garbage trucks, school buses and milk truck fleets have switched from diesel to natural gas, and thanks to its abundance and low price, they’re saving 50 per cent on fuel bills.

The trucks and buses eliminate particulate pollution and reduce carbon emissions by 30 per cent compared to gasoline or diesel.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom says natural gas is being considered for BC Ferries, the largest public-sector emissions source of all, which is exempt from the carbon neutrality rule.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

Just Posted

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Victoria police continue to look for missing man Tyrone Goertzen and are once again asking for the public’s assistance in locating him. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police put out another call for help finding missing man

Tyrone Goertzen, 33, was first reported missing June 4

Rachel Rivera (left) and Claire Ouchi are a dynamic art duo known as the WKNDRS. The two painted the new road mural at Uptown. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Artistic mural at Uptown brings creativity, fun to summer shoppers in Saanich

Road installation the largest of its kind in Greater Victoria

Kathy and Doug LaFortune stand next to the new welcome pole now gracing the front entrance of KELSET Elementary School in North Saanich. LaFortune completed the piece after suffering a stroke with the help of his wife and son Bear. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
KELSET school in North Saanich unveils welcome pole on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Carver Doug LaFortune completed pole with the help of his son, wife after suffering a stroke

Colwood council is looking at potential summer weekend closures to traffic of a section of Ocean Boulevard at Esquimalt Lagoon, to allow for more of a park-like setting during summer events such as the popular Eats & Beats event, shown here in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Mayor lobbying for summer weekend closures of beachfront Colwood roadway

Rob Martin to bring motion forward to June 28 council meeting

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

Bernadette Jordan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 14, 2019. Jordan says the government will provide $2 million to allow First Nations to continue to strengthen the marine safety system across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
First Nations receive federal funds to purchase marine rescue boats

Quatsino, Heiltsuk, and Kitasoo First Nation’s among eight across Canada to receive funding

Most Read