The B.C. NDP government has made official what the former B.C. Liberal government acknowledged three years ago – it’s not going to make its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a third in 2020.
Environment Minister George Heyman introduced legislation Monday to set new targets: a 40 per cent cut by 2030 and 60 per cent by 2040. Those are compared to 2007 levels, the year before B.C. became the first province in Canada to levy a carbon tax on fuels, from coal to gasoline to natural gas.
The original target of an 80 per cent reduction by 2050 remains, although the restructuring of the economy that would achieve that is not yet on the drawing board. The NDP government has enacted its first increase in the carbon tax effective April 1, bringing the tax on a litre of gasoline up to about eight cents.
But B.C.’s slowly escalating carbon tax has so far had little effect. The latest federal statistics, from 2015, show B.C.’s emissions remain little affected by the carbon tax. They show a slight decrease between 2005 and 2015, which is mainly attributed to the world economic crisis of 2008-10 that reduced construction as well as transportation activity, B.C.’s largest source of carbon dioxide emissions.
The new B.C. legislation includes mandatory reporting of progress, with reports every two years by a government advisory committee starting in 2020. It also requires regular reporting to the public on climate adaptation.
The NDP government’s first budget in February brought in the carbon tax increase earlier than the party had promised, a demand of the B.C. Green Party for support of the minority government.
The NDP have also scrapped the provision that carbon tax increases must be offset by income tax reductions, aiming to spend the revenue on emissions-reducing projects and low-income rebates.
Heyman gave few details of how the new targets would be achieved. He said the new tax incentives B.C. is offering to LNG Canada for a large-scale liquefied natural gas export facility at Kitimat are contingent on meeting the overall target, and the Shell-backed investor group was told that.
“We have to see how we can meet an overall industrial emission target, and where any increase in certain industries would fit into that,” Heyman said. “We’re building a plan. We expect to work with all industries to see how we’re going to meet the reductions they need to make overall.”