Paris climate deal leaves questions for B.C.

International agreement calls for additional emission cuts, but Canada and B.C. haven't decided how to do it

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined other national leaders in hailing the international greenhouse gas emission agreement reached in Paris over the weekend, but the implications for Canada and B.C. remain unclear.

Trudeau said in a statement from Ottawa that he and the provincial premiers will meet within 90 days to develop a plan to do Canada’s part in the effort to keep average global temperature rise below two degrees from pre-industrial levels.

Canada’s official submission to the Paris talks was the previous Conservative government’s plan of a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, starting from the 2005 level, including restrictions on coal-fired power and methane emissions.

The Paris agreement notes that existing voluntary targets by countries do not meet what is calculated to prevent a two per cent increase, and more emission cuts will be required. Article 28 of the legal text also gives every country the ability, after three years of implementation, to give a year’s notice and withdraw.

In a year-end interview, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said the government will wait until a national emissions goal is established before deciding whether to add measures to the existing carbon tax on carbon-based fuels. The B.C. tax has been frozen at $30 a tonne since 2013, adding about seven cents to the price of a litre of gasoline with similar increases for natural gas and other heating fuels.

An advisory committee recommended in November that the tax be increased by a third starting in 2018, with annual increases after to drive down carbon dioxide emissions.

Clark said the carbon tax freeze means B.C. won’t meet its own legislated target of reducing emissions by a third by 2020, but the government couldn’t keep raising it and risk pushing industries and jobs out of the province.

“Other provinces are starting to get closer to where we are,” Clark said. “By 2018, Alberta’s going to have come some way. By then Ontario will be into a plan, and Quebec already is.”

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan said he’s “comfortable” with the advisory committee’s date of 2018, which would give an NDP government time to assess the situation if he wins the 2017 B.C. election.

Horgan said he is inclined to support the carbon tax proposed recently by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, which means “taking revenues and driving them into industries, or activities like transit, that will reduce emissions over time.”

 

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