P.E.I. needs more 'bang for your buck' in emissions reductions, MLAs say

MLAs developing a plan to help P.E.I. reach its emissions reduction target say they need better information from the government on how money is being spent to achieve that goal.

Province on 'a very expensive pathway' to meet 2030 emissions target, warns committee chair

One of the recommendations of a committee of MLAs looking into ways of meeting P.E.I.'s 2030 emissions target is to ban the installation of oil furnaces when new houses are being built. (CBC)

MLAs developing a plan to help Prince Edward Island reach its emissions reduction target say they need better information from the King government on how money is being spent to achieve that goal.

As things stand, the chair of the Special Committee on Climate Change Lynne Lund says the province appears to be on "a very expensive pathway" to meet its goal of reducing emissions by a further 320,000 tonnes by the year 2030.

"When you look at the last climate change report that came out from the province, they told us that we've spent $6 million and that we have reduced emissions by 12,000 tonnes," said Lund. 

"That means we've spent $500 per tonne of CO2 avoided."

Lund said other jurisdictions have calculated abatement costs related to carbon pricing at $26 per tonne of CO2 avoided, while she expects some other measures on P.E.I. would likely end up costing $50 to $100 per tonne.

At a cost of $500 per tonne, Lund said P.E.I. would have to spend $160 million to reach its 2030 target.

"We need to be able to consider our options and determine whether or not we think $160 million is a most effective pathway to get there," said Lund. "I would say it's not."

Prince Edward Island has committed to reducing emissions a further 320,000 tonnes by the year 2030, but the chair of a special legislative committee is questioning why it should cost $160 million to get there. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Many options to reduce emissions

A report from the committee tabled in the legislature this week includes 14 recommendations -- chief among them that the province provide carbon abatement costs that show just how cost-effective various efforts to reduce emissions have been.

"There are many options government and Islanders could undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," the report notes. "To properly evaluate which efforts would be most worthwhile, an evaluation must be carried out to determine each option's expected dollar cost per tonne of carbon dioxide avoided."

PC MLA Sidney MacEwen, also on the committee, said it's all about finding out "what's going to give you your best bang for your buck to reduce greenhouse gas emissions here in P.E.I."

The special committee's job is to provide a costed plan to government outlining how the province can meet its targets. MacEwen said understanding carbon abatement costs is key to being able to do that, "so that… if we've got a sum of money to invest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we know that we're going to reduce the most for the [least] amount of money."

Revamp carbon tax, committee says

Lund said one low-cost option to reduce emissions — and something the all-party committee recommended — would be for P.E.I. to implement "a more effective carbon pricing framework."

Based on the government's most recent operating budget, P.E.I.'s carbon levy is expected to bring in $16.6 million in the current fiscal year, an increase of 32 per cent over last year.

But that increase is almost entirely offset by a decrease in revenue from the province's gasoline tax, since for the past two years the province has been cutting pre-existing fuel taxes while implementing the federally mandated carbon levy.

"Using carbon tax revenue to subsidize the cost of gasoline undermines the purpose of having a carbon tax," the report states, calling for a new carbon tax system that provides dividends to Island households.

No more oil heat in new builds?

Another of the report's recommendations would have government prohibit the use of heating oil in all new construction on the Island.

"If we're going to continue to heat things with oil in our new builds, we can't get to carbon neutral here in P.E.I.," said MacEwen. 

If we're going to continue to heat things with oil in our new builds, we can't get to carbon neutral here in P.E.I.- PC MLA Sidney MacEwen, a member of the special committee

In its first throne speech, the government of Dennis King pledged to make the province carbon-neutral, and in follow-up debate the premier said that goal could be achieved by the year 2050.

P.E.I. Environment Minister Natalie Jameson is also on the special committee.

According to an emailed statement from her department, attributed to the minister, government hasn't yet had time to review the committee's report.

"We take climate change seriously and welcome the committee's interim recommendations," the statement said.

Lund said once carbon abatement costs are provided by government, the committee should be able to complete its mandate and provide a costed plan to reduce emissions by the fall sitting of the legislature.

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  • A previous version of this story stated Lynne Lund felt carbon abatement costs in the range of $26 per tonne would be more reasonable than what P.E.I. has been spending. She later clarified she expects some of the province's measures will end up costing in the range of $50 to $100 per tonne.
    Jul 03, 2020 5:08 PM AT