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British Columbia "the clear leader in North American climate policy"
Alex Steffen, 22 Feb 08

B.C.'s provincial government has instituted a carbon tax. It's pretty significant:

Taylor said the new carbon tax will begin July 1, starting at a rate that will have drivers paying about an extra 2.4 cents per litre of gasoline at the pumps. The tax -- which will apply to virtually all fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, propane and home heating fuel -- will then increase each year after that until 2012, reaching a final price of about 7.2 cents per litre at the pumps. After that, Taylor said, it will rest with the government of the day to decide if the tax rate should change any further.

Which is excellent news, but not half as good as the fact that this isn't a tax increase, it's a tax shift: other taxes will go down as this tax goes up, so that average people don't take a financial hit. Low-income British Columbians will even get "climate action dividends" under the plan of $100 per adult and $30 per child.

What's more, the government is subsidizing home energy improvements and energy-efficient appliances, as well as offering a $2,000 reduction in sales tax on fuel-efficient vehicles.

Eric de Place puts this in context:

For non-metric Americans, this means...

...the tax rate will start at 9.1 cents per gallon and rise to 27.3 cents in 2012. Kind of expensive, right? But that's the point: to discourage carbon pollution. And in any event, the money gets funneled right back to individuals and businesses.

Today's announcement makes BC the clear leader in North American climate policy. No one else is even close. California, Oregon, and Washington are all waffling on much milder prescriptions.

While Marc Lee says:

Economic impacts estimated at 0.1% of GDP, which seems reasonable to me. Given that there are huge costs to doing nothing – the narrowly averted spring flooding last year due to large snowpacks was estimated at $6 billion, or 3% of BC’s GDP – this seems a small price to pay.

It's not perfect, and not enough, but BC's carbon tax is the first move I've seen in North America that at least feels like it has the proper scope of the problem in mind. Well done, BC!

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Letters sent by academics and voter groups played a huge role in making this happen. Support for the tax shift developed relatively quickly, showing that communication between different sectors of society can have a streamlining effect on politics.

Posted by: Mike Simons on 23 Feb 08

Well done indeed, but what would make BC the real leader in climate change policy would be a corresponding move to encourage greater investment in public transit.

Posted by: Mike Todd on 23 Feb 08

This is a great first step by B.C., but I really have a hard time believing that a 7 cent/liter price increase is going to change behavior in any significant manner.

Posted by: Tarek on 23 Feb 08

While some consumers are concerned that the “tax shift” will simply mean higher prices at the pump or on their energy bill, businesses are looking at the carbon tax as a significant asset or liability, depending on which side of the fence they sit. From a corporate perspective this means carbon has become something that must be managed and accounted for - something that requires a strategy to deal with. Faced with rising energy costs and increased shareholder demand to invest in green technologies, companies are beginning to take hard look at carbon’s influence on their bottom line. The introduction of this carbon tax may expedite this process significantly in both BC and abroad.

Posted by: Michael Meehan on 24 Feb 08

BC also released a new agriculture plan 2 weeks ago. It clearly makes health, climate, urban and local food links.

Posted by: Shakes on 25 Feb 08

We need to hear now from one of our most esteemed colleagues, Dr. William E. "Bill" Rees from the University of British Columbia, on this subject.

Steve Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
established 2001

Posted by: stevenearlsalmony on 25 Feb 08

Steve Salmony, Dr. Rees has now responded.

For those who aren't familiar with his work, William Rees is credited with the concept of the eco-footprint. He is a strong proponent of a tax-shifting, and helped to create a groundswell of support for the BC carbon tax.

Posted by: Mike Simons on 25 Feb 08

To Mike Todd: note that there has been an announcement of a rather large investment in public transport. Roughly $14 billion, in fact. See the press release from the BC Ministry of Transport.

Posted by: David Hume on 26 Feb 08

Thanks Alex for your timely assistance and to Bill Rees for his incisive remarks.

What concerns me most of all is this: the family of humanity appears not to have more than several years in which to make necessary changes in its conspicuous over-consumption lifestyles, in the unsustainable overproduction practices of big-business enterprises, and its overpopulation activities. Humankind may not be able to protect life as we know it and to preserve the integrity of Earth for even one more decade.

If we project the fully anticipated growth of increasing and unbridled per-capita consumption, of rampantly expanding economic globalization and of propagating 70 to 75 million newborns per annum, will someone please explain to me how our seemingly endless growth civilization proceeds beyond the end of year 2012.

According to my admittedly simple estimations, if humankind keeps doing just as it is doing now, without doing whatsoever is necessary to begin modifying the business-as-usual course of our gigantic, endless-growth-oriented global economy, then the Earth could sustain life as we know it for a time period of about 5 more years.

It appears to me that all the chatter, including that heard in most “normal science” circles, of a benign path to the future by “leap-frogging” through a ‘bottleneck’ to population stabilization, and to good times ahead in 2050, is nothing more than wishful and magical thinking.

Unfortunately, even top rank scientists have not found adequate ways of communicating to humanity what people somehow need to hear, see and understand: the reckless dissipation of Earth’s limited resources, the relentless degradation of Earth’s frangible environment, and the approaching destruction of the Earth as a fit place for human habitation by the human species, when taken together, appear to be proceeding toward the precipitation of a catastrophic ecological wreckage of some sort unless, of course, the world’s colossal, ever expanding, artificially designed, manmade global economy continues to speed headlong toward the monolithic ‘wall’ called “unsustainability” at which point the runaway economy crashes before Earth’s ecology is collapsed.

How do others see the distinctly human-induced global predicament looming before humanity?

Always, with thanks,

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
established 2001

Posted by: Steven Earl Salmony on 26 Feb 08

Go BC! Living in Seattle, we feel the ripple effect of many of their policies, so I'm glad to see them making such brilliant headway.

One would hope, however, that they would take their waste policies as seriously as their carbon policies. BC residents produce more waste per capita than anywhere else in the world. Their packaging laws are under revision at present, but environmentalists fear that little headway is being made. If you live in the BC, make sure you write your political representative in favor of aggressive packaging laws and recycling policies!

Posted by: Brave New Leaf on 26 Feb 08

It seems to me we have to begin thinking “outside the box” about new and ingenious ways of providing humane and powerful incentives to citizens (individuals) who will agree to have one child per family as well as to ‘citizens’ (corporations) that accept a limit to their unbridled, dissipating consumption of Earth’s limited resources and limitations on the soon to be unsustainable globalization of their environmentally degrading big-business activities.

Please take note of the remarkably large number of well-established incentives propelling our human-designed, pyramid scheme, global economy that are patently perverse for most of the family of humanity because the standard incentives favor not more a small minority of people at the top of the global economic pyramid.

As everyone who looks already knows, that pyramid is displayed on every One Dollar Bill(US).

If we are to reasonably address the challenges posed by runaway climate change, do we not have to begin sensibly and ably responding to the threats presented by the huge scale and growth of the endlessly expanding, runaway global political economy on the relatively small planet we inhabit?

Posted by: Steve Salmony on 27 Feb 08

From my observation of the BC government in the past the tax revenue will disappear into the fat compensation of the leading crowd of government parasites.B.C. has a dismal record on environmental issues. It's destruction of the fishing, forests and horrific air quality is without parallel in other G-7 countries. Austria and Germany recycle 90% of their garbage stream. The pulp mills had to convert to hydrogen peroxyd form chlorine 30 years ago. The 7 mills ringing the strait of georgia have taken their toll on the health of all coastal communities. The cancer rate in BC however well hidden is the highest in North America.. So B.C.citizens don't rejoyce to quickly it's another tax grab to feed huge the crowd of Campbellites...

Posted by: rudy sauter on 4 Mar 08



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