British Columbia carbon tax

2008-02-21

in Canada, Economics, Law, The environment

Buses at the Rideau Centre, Ottawa

In a relatively big announcement today, British Columbia has announced a new carbon tax on gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, propane and home-heating fuel. Canada-wide, the combustion of fossil fuels represents about 70% of total emissions, with the remainder consisting of things like industrial process emissions and those associated with landfills. The B.C. tax takes effect on July 1st, starting at $10 a tonne and rising to $30 a tonne by 2012.

Like many proposed carbon taxes, the British Columbian scheme aims to be revenue neutral, with the funds collected being primarily redistributed back to consumers through reductions in other taxes and increased grants to low-income individuals. This somewhat reduces the environmental effectiveness of the tax, since some of the refunded money will be used to continue doing emissions intensive things, but it makes it easier to defuse claims that this is an excessive new burden on low income people. The projected emissions reduction for the next three years is 1 Mt per year – just 1.5% of the B.C. total, but a start. At present, British Columbia is in the middle of the pack when it comes to emissions among Canadian provinces: approximately on par with Quebec and Saskatchewan, but significantly behind Alberta and Ontario.

B.C. is also part of a regional climatic organization called the Western Climate Initiative, which aims to launch a cap-and-trade scheme for greenhouse gasses. With luck, such provincial and regional systems will yield both absolute reductions in emissions and useful lessons in policy design.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan February 20, 2008 at 3:52 pm

“I think this is a landmark decision in North America as far as government addressing global warming. The B.C. government has decided to use one of the most powerful incentives at its disposal to reduce pollution.”

Ian Bruce of the Suzuki Foundation, on the carbon tax just implemented by the provincial government of British Columbia

Anon February 21, 2008 at 10:02 am

The real question is, what will this do to the price of B.C. Bud?

There is a one-time $100 payout to taxpayers, at least some of which will probably be spent on marijuana, thus increasing the price.

Higher prices for fossil fuel energy may also increase production and distribution costs.

I wonder if they included the industry in their economic models.

. February 21, 2008 at 10:10 am

BC’s Carbon Tax

British Columbia has brought in the first comprehensive carbon tax in North America. There are lots of ways they could have got this wrong, but so far it looks like they got it right and they should be applauded for breaking new ground.

tristan February 21, 2008 at 11:58 am

Those numbers for BC compared to other provinces don’t appear to be per person, and thus, seem pretty irrelevant to me. BC has a few more people in it than Saskatchewan.

Another reason these numbers arn’t that interesting is, I think, one needs to control for hydro electric power. Whether a province has hydro electric power is pretty much random – i.e., whether or not there happen to be mountain ranges. Also, while hydro electric power is sometimes ok from a Co2 perspective (not if they don’t remove the foliage and trees), it’s pretty awful from many other perspectives. I don’t think provinces should be rewarded for this. What is interesting is how they produce the power that isn’t produced by dams – coal or solar, or wind, or nuclear?

The tax seems pretty minimal – 10$ a ton means 10/432 $ per liter. About 2 cents?

Still, the olympics will likely cause more harm than a carbon tax can make up in short order. The very odd thing about this government is that they are pure evil, but they’ve realized that the best way to fool people is to actually do good things, and not just photo opportunities either. This is real evidence that the citizenry is getting smarter. Chomsky would call this a real gain, precipitated by the democratic citizenry. (Yes, he does talk about real gains, despite denying that we have free elections).

tristan February 21, 2008 at 12:12 pm

the interesting thing about this initiative is that it isn’t politically one sided – which ever party wins the next election, presumably the tax would remain in force. This makes it a bit different than if an NDP government had instantiated such a tax, then the liberals would surely have revoked it

tristan February 21, 2008 at 12:13 pm

I very much appreciate these numbers:

Fuel efficiency (Litres/1000 km)
5.0 7.5 10.0 12.5 15.0
Each 10,000 km $12.05 $18.08 $24.10 $30.13 $36.15

To often we are just given “medium fuel economy” (and it turns out to be 12L/100km??). This treats people like idiots. Giving them the proper information assumes they can do math and understand their own finances. I appreciate this.

Milan February 21, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Those numbers for BC compared to other provinces don’t appear to be per person, and thus, seem pretty irrelevant to me. BC has a few more people in it than Saskatchewan.

2005 per-capita emissions (tonnes of CO2 equivalent)

British Columbia: 15.44
Alberta: 71.59
Saskatchewan: 71.13
Manitoba: 17.25
Ontario: 15.92
Quebec: 11.65
New Brunswick: 26.46
Nova Scotia: 23.91
Prince Edward Island: 16.67
Newfoundland: 20.35
Yukon: 12.90
Northwest Territories and Nunavut: 21.92

The non per-capita figures do matter, insofar as the relative importance of jurisdictions is concerned. A bit improvement in Albertan climate policy is really important, due to their total level of emissions. A huge change in PEI’s policy is still pretty irrelevant.

Milan February 21, 2008 at 12:24 pm

the interesting thing about this initiative is that it isn’t politically one sided – which ever party wins the next election, presumably the tax would remain in force. This makes it a bit different than if an NDP government had instantiated such a tax, then the liberals would surely have revoked it

Very true. It is vital for climate change to become a post-partisan issue. Otherwise, any policy advances from one group will get torpedoed whenever an election changes who’s in power.

Matt June 30, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Maureen Bader, professional idiot and BC Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, wrote this lovely little piece:

Carbon tax coercicion continues

Of course, it’s full of half-truths, straw-man arguments and outright falsities. Take for instance this quote:

“The green lobby says government should add a carbon tax to fossil fuels because they insist carbon dioxide is a pollutant and a carbon tax would force polluters to pay for their misdeeds.

Except carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. According to Environment Canada, ‘air pollution is made of various chemicals and particles that contaminate the atmosphere around the Earth.’

Carbon dioxide is a clear, colourless, odourless gas that each one of us breathes out every second of every day.”

I like how she uses a very vague definition of pollution (under which CO2 could definetly fall, being one of “various chemicals”), and then uses that to show that CO2 is not a pollutant. If I wanted to use irrelevant data to prove CO2 is a pollutant, I’d say “Carbon Monoxide is a clear, colourless, odourless gas, and it’s deadly. Therefore CO2 must also be deadly.” Of course, CO2 is harmful for reasons beyond the physical properties she’s mentioned, but she’s hoping no one will notice her disgustingly faulty logic.

Milan July 1, 2009 at 2:11 am

This looks like an ideal opportunity for a letter to the editor, pointing out the faulty logic.

. August 23, 2016 at 4:48 pm

LNG influence evident in B.C. climate plan: NDP critic

The lack of a carbon tax increase in B.C. climate plan another example of government making concessions to LNG, says NDP environment critic.

. August 29, 2016 at 9:20 am

5 things you need to know about B.C.’s new climate plan

1. B.C.’s carbon pollution won’t decline until 2030

2. B.C. is not on track to meet its 2050 target

3. B.C. has lost an opportunity to position B.C. to be competitive in a low-carbon economy

4. B.C. is not doing its part in Canada’s efforts on climate change

5. B.C.’s LNG plans are not compatible with its climate targets

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