When will the Government restore the scheduled carbon tax increase?

Jul 15, 2020 | 41-5, Blog, Governance, Question Period, Video

Today I asked the Minister of Environment when the provincial government will restore the scheduled carbon tax increase. A few months ago this government delayed, indefinitely, the next scheduled carbon tax increase. In the current economic context, this may be seen as a tough question, but it is now more than ever that we need to talk about the price signals that we will use to shape our recovery.

I also asked if government plans to use sectoral targets in their recovery strategy to ensure we are in line with legislated emission reductions. As we work to recover from a badly damaged economy with both an immediate and long view, establishing sectoral targets will help us achieve the prosperous and clean future that British Columbians want.



A. Olsen:

The COVID-19 crisis exposed existential threats to our society and, of course, our economy. But as we plan our recovery from COVID-19, we remain extremely vulnerable to the economic and social crisis that can be brought on by degrading climate.

A few months ago, this government delayed indefinitely the next scheduled increase to the price of carbon. In the current economic context, this may be seen as a tough question. But it is now, more than ever, that we need to talk about the price signals that we will use to shape our recovery.

Economists agree that consistent, scheduled increases to the price of carbon are essential to its effectiveness as a tool. When the government remains consistent in our policy to raise the incentive to decarbonize and innovate, it provides businesses with the certainty that they need to plan for their investments in moving to a clean economy. We need a clean recovery. If we don’t continue with progressive carbon pricing, we risk destroying the progress that we have created thus far and entering into a more carbon-intensive recovery.

My question is to the Minister of Finance. Will she provide the right signal for a clean recovery by telling us when her government will restore the scheduled carbon tax increase?

Mr. Speaker:

We seem to have a technical glitch. Minister of Finance, perhaps we could come back.
Minister of Environment.

Hon. G. Heyman:

Thank you to the member for the question. British Columbia has the most robust carbon tax in North America. We have provided predictability to British Columbians and to industry by laying out an advanced schedule that maintains that leadership and that shows where we’re going. But we also know that the carbon tax is not the only tool necessary to make advances in the face of the climate crisis.

We have increased the climate action credit for British Columbians to help families deal with the cost and make the changes. We also have the CleanBC industrial incentive program to do the same thing. We also have a suite of regulations, and we’re investing well over $1 billion over a four-year period to fight climate change.

But the member is right. We faced, in March, a COVID crisis. It doesn’t mean we turn away from our commitment to climate action. If anything, it’s inspired us to double down and ensure that CleanBC and climate action will be at heart of our economic recovery. But I don’t believe that it’s responsible government, in the face of an immediate crisis that affected every business and every person in every corner of British Columbia, to move ahead without thinking about the impacts of not making an adjustment to our plan.

We deferred the increase in the carbon tax for review by September 30. That review will take place. It will take place in the context of our economic recovery plans as well as the state of COVID. We recognize the climate emergency. We also recognize the COVID crisis. We believe it’s possible to address both at the same time. That’s exactly what we intend to do.

Mr. Speaker:

Leader Third Party on a supplemental.

A. Olsen:

Thank you to the minister for the very thorough answer and for the answer.

Sectoral targets, as enabled by last year’s Climate Change Accountability Amendment Act, need to be set by March 2021. This is also an important tool. It assists industry and the public to identify where emissions originate, what policies are working and those that aren’t. Transparent, data-driven sectorial targets can assist us in balancing our current emission rates and reductions that are necessary to meet our legislative targets.

As we work to recover from a badly damaged economy with both an immediate and a long view, establishing sectorial targets will help us to achieve the prosperous and clean future that British Columbians want.

My question is again to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Has the minister asked his staff to use sectoral targets to ensure that our recovery strategy is in line with the emission reductions that we need to achieve CleanBC?

Hon. G. Heyman:

Thank you again to the member.

We’re very proud of the work we’ve done to create the CleanBC plan. Part of that was creating changes to the Climate Change Accountability Act, the interim emissions target as well as the establishment in legislation of the responsibility to create sectoral targets.

We did that in consultation with the Green caucus, as the member well knows. We also consulted quite broadly in the creation of that new legislation. We are working hard to do the engagement necessary with environmental organizations, with industry, with British Columbians, with municipalities, with Indigenous people, to ensure that we get the targets right and that we do it in a way that they can achieve their purpose. Their purpose is to provide certainty, to provide guideposts along the way to meeting our legislated targets, to provide a road map to get there. We have much engagement left to do, but we are on target to be setting those targets as required by legislation.

We also are working very, very hard on ensuring that we have a broad-based set of recommendations for cabinet consideration for specific items in our economic recovery plans that will provide jobs, that will provide equity, that will lift up communities and Indigenous people, that will support the economy of British Columbia and move us further along the pathway to meeting our emission reduction targets and entrenching CleanBC in the future of British Columbians.

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