British Columbia

Experts gather in Vancouver to discuss B.C.'s carbon tax

Experts are gathering for a conference in Vancouver this week to discuss B.C.'s unique carbon tax.

Experts are gathering for a conference in Vancouver this week to discuss B.C.'s unique carbon tax.

In advance of its first anniversary, 30 speakers including climate change researchers, government decision-makers, mayors and corporations will discuss how well the provincial tax on fossil fuels is working.

The tax, which kicked in July 1, 2008, is the first of its kind in North America.

Carbon-based fuels — gasoline, diesel, natural gas and home heating fuel — are taxed at a rate of $10 per tonne of greenhouse gases generated.

On July 1, 2009, the carbon tax will go up $5 a tonne and will continue to do so for the next three years, until it hits $30 per tonne in 2012.

John Robinson, a professor in sustainability at the University of British Columbia and co-chair of the conference, said B.C. is a testing ground for climate policy.

"It's actually this huge laboratory for four years of the most advanced climate policy in North America, so it's just this incredibly fertile period we're coming up with," Robinson said.

One issue the conference will tackle is how the public sector is responding to the new cost on carbon emissions.

Under B.C. law, municipalities and public sector institutions have to become carbon neutral by 2010. In addition to paying the carbon tax on any fossil fuels burned, they also have to buy carbon credits to offset the emissions.

"That provides a huge incentive that didn't exist two years ago to get off carbon," Robinson said.

His own university, he said, projects it would spend more than $42 million meeting those requirements over the next 25 years if it doesn't find a way to reduce emissions.

The conference on the carbon tax begins Monday and runs until Wednesday at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

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