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

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

Semiahmoo students to raise awareness about acid throwing

The Grade 11 students are to host a fundraiser for victims

Maritimers bring taste of Atlantic Ocean to South Surrey

Maritime Seafoods owner says they cut out the middleman

VIDEO: Surrey Vaisakhi Parade floods Newton streets

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the annual event

Four Surrey students head to New Brunswick for Canada-wide science fair

Three projects move to nationals following regional fair at KPU

VAISAKHI EXPLAINED: Founding of the Khalsa was a seminal event in Sikh history

There are five K’s – articles of faith – worn by baptized Sikhs

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

Police say ‘no major incidents’ at 4/20, Vancouver Park Board assessing

The first smoke-out held since legalization saw 60,000 people at Vancouver’s Sunset Beach

VIDEO: Langley firefighters spend hours battling blaze in vacant home

Cause of the late-night fire in Willoughby is still under investigation

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

RCMP looking for witnesses to four-vehicle crash in Burnaby

Police suspect impaired driving was a contributing factor

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Most Read