British Columbia

B.C. Premier Christy Clark's climate change plan does not raise carbon tax

B.C. Premier Christy Clark unveiled a long-awaited plan to tackle climate change that stopped short of raising the carbon tax, saying she had to balance it against the economy.

Clark says carbon tax increase would threaten the province's economy

B.C. Premier Christy Clark unveiled her long-awaited climate change plan for the province at a carbon research institute in Richmond, B.C. (CBC)

B.C. Premier Christy Clark unveiled a long-awaited plan to tackle climate change Friday after she was accused by critics of letting greenhouse gas emissions rise through years of inaction.

But while Clark said her government planned to implement the bulk of recommendations made by a government-appointed review team, she said she will not raise the carbon tax.

"I have to balance the need to make sure that our carbon tax remains world leading with the obligation to ensure that family affordability is at the forefront of our minds as well as protecting our economy and job creation," Clark told a news conference in Richmond, B.C.

"A climate plan is not just about carbon pricing."

Campbell's achievement

The carbon tax was launched in 2008 as part of a Climate Action Plan which was considered one of former premier Gordon Campbell's signature achievements.

Clark froze the tax after she took over from Campbell as Liberal leader and premier in 2011.

Currently, the tax sits at $30 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions. The province's Climate Leadership Team review team had called for a $10 increase in the tax starting in 2018.

According to the review panel, greenhouse gas emissions in B.C. have risen since 2012, making it "extremely difficult" for the province to meet its own legislated target for 2020 of cutting emissions by one-third from 2007 levels.

Critics expressed dismay at Clark's refusal to increase the carbon tax even before she formally made the announcement.

"The commitments in the plan represent a piecemeal approach that the Climate Leadership team warned would prove economically and environmentally ineffective," said Josha McNab, B.C. director of the Pembina Institute on Thursday.

"B.C. has the capacity to do much more in the fight against climate change.

"Not doing so passes the costs of dealing with climate change onto our children and grandchildren."

National carbon tax?

The federal Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change said it's working with the provinces and territories to develop a national plan to address the issue while also trying to give them some flexibility.

"We know putting a national price on carbon is the best way to reduce emissions and foster innovation,"

"Having that price increase ... will be key to supporting the clean growth economy."

Instead of raising the carbon tax, Clark promised to decrease the province's greenhouse gas emission by 25 megatonnes every year. 

She said her administration has outlined 21 actions to target the sectors expected to have the biggest impact on climate change.

Those include: methane reduction, electrification of the upstream for liquefied natural gas, reforestation, expanding an electric vehicle program and investing in new transportation infrastructure.

Clark also called on other provinces across Canada to match B.C.'s carbon tax levy.

"We will consider raising the carbon tax as other provinces catch up," she said, describing B.C. as a climate leader.