Premier Christy Clark rolled out details of BC’s new strategy to combat climate change today, promising action on cutting carbon emissions.
But criticism has been swift, and leading the charge are some of the experts who the government called on to help develop the plan, who say their key recommendation—increasing the province’s carbon tax—is being ignored.
The “Climate Leadership Plan,” unveiled Friday afternoon in Vancouver, commits to reducing the province’s carbon emissions by 80 per cent from 2007 by 2050, with 21 measures, including funding infrastructure to support electric vehicles and reduce traffic congestion, reforestation and carbon capture plans, and switching the province’s LNG industry to carbon-free electricity sources.
The plan follows on 32 recommendations delivered to the province in November by a blue ribbon panel of experts, dubbed the Climate Leadership Team.
But today, members of that panel, including UVic climate scientist Tom Pedersen say Clark chose to disregard the key plank in the strategy they presented, raising BC’s $30-per-tonne carbon tax by $10 dollars a year.
“The core was left out,” said Pedersen. “The carbon tax increase was the core of our recommendations, and its a tragedy that we’ve missed this opportunity.”
BC is the only province with a carbon tax. Introduced in 2008 under Gordon Campbell, Pedersen credits the tax with driving down carbon emissions in the first five years after being brought in while spurring investment in renewable energy, before Clark froze it in 2012.
“It changed behaviours, in fact [emissions] went down by 19 per cent per capita relative to the rest of Canada over the first 5 years of that carbon tax, and that was true climate leadership,” he said. “BC was praised around the world and really importantly that carbon tax helped to drive the clean technology sector of BC which was the fastest growing sector of our economy during those years.”
Clark says BC can’t afford to increase the carbon tax, unless other provinces bring in their own carbon tax plans
“I have to balance the need to make sure that our carbon tax remains world leading with the obligation to ensure that family affordability is at the forefront of our minds, as well as protecting our economy and job creation,” she said.
Pedersen says the panel, which included industry leaders and economists, considered all of that in generating its recommendations.
BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said BC can’t lead on climate change while promoting LNG development.
The NDP pledged to deliver their own climate strategy in the coming weeks.