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

TONIGHT: Second public hearing to be held on major development project

Developer envisions 131 apartments, community gaming centre and other commercial ventures at site

Infrastructure strategy slated for Silverdale lands

Mission hires consultants to lay out infrastructure needs for 3,440-acre area eyed for future growth

Fraser Valley Express doubles weekend and holiday bus service

Four new round trips to be added, starting Sept. 4

Parks and playgrounds getting upgrades in Mission

Some areas have been waiting years, but district vows to get to them eventually

VIDEO: Child airlifted to hospital after crash in rural Langley

Jaws of life were used to cut off the roof of a car and free its occupants from a two-car accident.

VIDEO: Lower Mainland air quality to hit ‘extreme risk’

Smoke is pouring in from the interior B.C. and wildfires down in the U.S.

Documentary filmed in B.C. nominated in ‘Wildlife Oscars’’

Toad People is the only Canadian film to be nominated in this year’s Panda Wilderness Awards

B.C. man builds 10-foot sign thanking fire responders

Ken Rawson built his “thank u” sign on Saturday as helicopters responded to fires around the province.

PHOTOS: Olympian Patrick Chan helps B.C.’s ‘SuperChefs’ celebrate 10th anniversary

Former figure skater among those at event Friday in Surrey

Smaller B.C. bus service prepares to replace Greyhound

Kootenay-to-Okanagan run would require online reservations

Mother charged with homicide of Langley seven-year-old

Aaliyah Rosa’s 36-year-old mother charged with second degree murder: IHIT

Despite threats, Soldiers of Odin a no show at B.C. tent city

Nanaimo’s Discontent City held a counter rally on Sunday

5 to start your day

A man killed in Surrey, smoke continues to hang over the Lower Mainland and more

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in 2019

PM Justin Trudeau gears up to run in next year’s election

Most Read