'You eat it or you pass it on to your consumer:' business expert questions cost of B.C.'s new climate plan

The provincial government unveiled its plan to reduce emissions this week and, while many of the elements are being praised, some British Columbians are concerned about what the changes will mean for businesses.

Plan aims to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2030

Cleaner cars and cleaner buildings — as well as tax incentives for people to afford the shift — are highlights of the plan. ( Go Ultra Low/Getty Images)

The provincial government unveiled its plan to reduce emissions this week and, while many of the elements are being praised, some British Columbians are concerned about what the changes will mean for businesses.

The plan outlines a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030, with measures such as boosting energy-efficient technology like zero-emission vehicles and home retrofitting.  

"This new plan has some of the strongest climate policies we've seen in North America on transportation and on buildings," said Tzeporah Berman, a prominent B.C. environmentalist.

"But there are some challenges ahead … One of the big hard questions in the gap is industry."

The plan, called Clean B.C., requires all new buildings to be net-zero energy by 2032, and all new cars sold to be zero-emission by 2040.

This graph illustrates the predicted reductions in greenhouses gases in B.C. under the Clean B.C. plan. The yellow line indicates the status quo while the bands of colour represent greenhouse gas declines by sector. (CBC)

Potential costs

Dan Baxter, the director of policy development, government and stakeholder relations with the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, agrees there a good parts of the plan but questioned their price tag for industry.

"It's a good road map," he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"But we need to really see the cost."

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce recently conducted an "economic pulse check" survey and found that the cost of doing business is increasing, Baxter said.

"This is just another potential layer of that," he said, questioning the financial impact of transitioning to zero emission and energy efficient technology.

"If you're a small developer, you now have to figure out what do you do to basically incorporate that cost into your business model — you eat it or you pass it on to your consumer."

The plan includes incentives to electrify oil and gas production and make buildings more energy efficient. 8:06

'Maintain competitiveness' 

The government also plans to use a portion of B.C.'s carbon tax for incentives for cleaner operations for industries like mining aluminum and oil and gas.

"Those are very energy intensive industries and they're also trade exposed," Baxter said.

"Let's look at our LNG industry: we're competing against Qatar, we're competing against the United States — they don't have very stringent environmental [regulations], they definitely don't have carbon taxes or a price on carbon the way we do."

An artist's rendering of the LNG Canada project in Kitimat, B.C. (LNG Canada/Flickr)

He's concerned B.C.'s new climate plan might put businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

"Hopefully, whatever comes from this is a recognition that we don't want to layer more costs onto those businesses. We actually want to try to maintain their competitiveness," said Baxter.

But it's not all doom-and-gloom for businesses, he emphasized.

"B.C. does have a brand in the world that is a clean energy, clean technology brand," he said.

"There's obviously a lot of incentives in this package that could hopefully help us build on that brand."

The provincial government unveiled its plan to reduce emissions this week and, while many of the elements are being praised, some British Columbians are concerned about what the changes will mean for businesses. 8:24

The Early Edition