Climate change is happening. Devastating wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, droughts, and other climate related events are all predicted by climate science. The social and economic cost of these events is in the trillions of dollars, costs that, one way or another, fall on the shoulders of taxpayers.
What we are experiencing is only the beginning of the destructive and deadly events that will occur as climate change unfolds. Unless we take meaningful action, things will get worse year by year, decade by decade.
Tackling climate change head on and getting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions down to near zero by mid-century should be the top priority of every government. Sadly, many of our national and regional leaders seem not to have gotten the message and GHG emissions continue to climb.
The good news is there are some bright spots. One of those is the BC carbon tax. Introduced in 2008, the tax put a modest price on domestic and industrial carbon emissions and coupled that with tax reductions that were intended to make the tax revenue neutral.
The BC policy, although not the first, has been held up as a model for other governments around the world to follow. To date 44 countries and 17 state or provincial jurisdictions have implemented some form of carbon tax. The International Monetary Fund continues to promote taxing carbon as the most economically efficient way to reduce GHG emissions.
BC’s carbon tax has definitely helped flatten the provincial curve of GHG emissions. Numerous careful analyses show that the tax has reduced consumption of fossil fuels in BC by 5-7% with no negative impact on the economy.
The effect in BC is in line with what other jurisdictions have experienced with similar taxes. This is a modest result, but when set against the change in emissions in other provinces, which continued to increase after 2008 while BC’s flattened and declined, the effect of the tax appears more substantial.
Opponents of the carbon tax continue to state, wrongly, that the tax has no effect on GHG emissions and is not helping BC to meet its obligations under the Paris Accord. It is true that the tax alone is not enough to solve our emissions problem. Governments need to move aggressively in other policy areas such as building design, forest management, transportation, and agriculture.
The carbon tax is a necessary part of the plan to flatten the curve on emissions and limit the global and continent-wide temperature increases that we are seeing now.
Dr. Mike Healey, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences (UBC) and Vice Chair First Things First Okanagan
Laura Sacks, MSc Environmental Sciences, Founder and Co-leader of Nelson – West Kootenay chapter, Citizens’ Climate Lobby