As we prepare to mark our country's 145th birthday on Canada Day, July 1, those of us who live in B.C. can also celebrate a small but significant experiment to tackle climate change.
B.C.'s carbon tax, introduced in 2008, will increase on July 1 by $5 per tonne of carbon pollution (about one cent per litre of gasoline) to a total of $30 per tonne, increasing the incentive for everyone in the province — industry, households and businesses — to switch to cleaner energy technologies or adopt greener practices.
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And now, with the release of a report by Ottawa-based Sustainable Prosperity and a second one by the B.C. Climate Action Secretariat, British Columbians will have even more to celebrate: the environmental and economic benefits of this landmark policy.
Since the carbon tax was implemented in 2008, B.C.'s per capita use of petroleum fuels (subject to the carbon tax) has dropped by 15 per cent while sales in the rest of Canada have increased by 1.3 per cent.
B.C. had already been doing slightly better than the rest of the country at reducing fuel consumption per person from 2000 to 2008, before the carbon tax was in place, but this performance increased more than twofold after the carbon tax came into effect. This suggests the policy was an important contributor to B.C.'s success at decreasing fossil fuel use during the past four years.
If we single out gasoline consumption since 2008, British Columbians have reduced usage by 7.3 per cent more than the rest of Canada.
Findings from Sustainable Prosperity's report should silence critics' unsubstantiated claims that a carbon tax would destroy the economy because we'd be going it alone. In fact, growth in B.C.'s economic output (GDP) has outpaced the rest of Canada's since the carbon tax came into effect.
This finding is also supported by the experiences of a number of countries that have had carbon taxes in place for more than a decade. For example, Sweden, a jurisdiction with a similar size population and economy as B.C., has a carbon tax more than four times higher than B.C.'s for most sectors. Since Sweden's carbon tax was introduced in 1992, the country's economy has grown 44 per cent while greenhouse gas emissions have gone down by nearly 10 per cent. Last year, the World Economic Forum ranked Sweden third in the world on economic competitiveness.
On June 27, B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon announced that this summer the government will seek public input on the future of the carbon tax.
The David Suzuki Foundation will work with British Columbians from all walks of life to ensure that B.C. shows real leadership on climate change.