British Columbia

Carbon tax must increase to be effective, says federal environment minister

Catherine McKenna says a carbon tax needs to go up to work, but the federal environment minister stopped short of any direct criticism of B.C.'s new climate plan.

B.C.'s provincial climate change plan keeps the carbon tax frozen at $30 per tonne

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna spoke to CBC about B.C.'s new climate change plan. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Catherine McKenna says a tax on carbon has to increase to be effective, but the federal environment minister stopped short of any direct criticism in response to B.C.'s new climate change plan.

The new provincial climate change plan, released Friday, introduces 21 actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but fails to raise the carbon tax— something critics have called "a significant blow to B.C.'s climate plan."

Yesterday, provincial Environment Minister Mary Polak defended the lack of an increase, saying that B.C. was already so far ahead of everyone else when it came to carbon pricing and increasing it further would harm the economy.

Everyone has to do their part. - Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna

Today, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told CBC's The Early Edition that carbon taxes have to go up in order to be effective.

"With carbon pricing, it has to increase over time or it just doesn't have the effect that is needed. It just doesn't create the incentive."

B.C. has seen an increase in greenhouse gas emissions since 2012, the last year the carbon tax increased before Premier Christy Clark froze it.

Industry will innovate, says McKenna

McKenna said B.C. has an opportunity to be a real climate change leader in this area — B.C. was, after all, the first province to introduce the tax in 2008.

"Pricing pollution is critical ... we've heard from companies, we've heard from environmentalists, we've heard from youth, we've heard from residents of B.C. and we need a serious approach to climate change."

Polak said increasing the carbon tax would create "competitive issues for our industry," but McKenna said industry is well-suited to absorbing a carbon tax.

"Most major companies ... know this is the direction the world is going and they know they need to be doing their part," said McKenna.

"Businesses will figure out ways to innovate and that will set us up well."

Upcoming national carbon pricing plan

The federal government and premiers have committed to a national climate change framework in early spring and a yet-unspecified carbon-pricing mechanism.

McKenna says she hopes the finalized national carbon pricing plan will come out in the fall, and that B.C. would commit to any increase in the national carbon pricing plan.

For her part, Polak said that B.C. would add new action items to the climate change plan depending on what happens during federal discussions.

"Everyone has to do their part, and we're going to be working with all provinces including B.C. to see how we can reach our target," McKenna said.

With files from The Early Edition

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna on B.C.'s climate change plan