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

New X-ray machine at the South Similkameen Health Centre will be up and running after Labour Day

Interior Health confirms the equipment was replaced because it was an old version

Local artists hold first annual Keremeos Art Walk

Painter Bonny Roberts hopes to make Keremeos’ first art walk an annual event

The Offspring and Sum41 ready to rock Penticton

The Offspring and Sum 41 will stop in Penticton to the South Okanagan Events Centre

Motorcyclist involved in Westside Road crash

Air ambulance assists while motorists face lengthy delays

VIDEO: Canadian zoos’ captive breeding programs help preserve endangered species

Programs considered last-ditch effort to prevent local extinctions of turtles, butterflies and more

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Man launches petition to bring charter schools to B.C.

The move could see up to 20 charter schools come to the province

Okanagan’s alleged “Deadpool” robber revealed

RCMP catch up with suspect following gas station robbery earlier this month

RCMP searching for missing Kelowna hitchhiker

Cody Kolodychuk was last heard from on July 31 and was thought to be hitchhiking in the Vernon area

South Okanagan pays it forward to BC Wildfire Service firefighters

Community members thank Eagle Bluff firefighters through Tim Hortons donations

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

Most Read