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The B.C. government is tabling it's budget on February 17. Check out our 2009 B.C. budget backgrounder focusing on the province's climate action commitments and how they relate to the upcoming budget and the emerging green economy.

1. B.C. Government Climate Action commitments:

  • B.C. Budget 2008 — "This budget marks a turning point. It overturns the notion that you have to choose between either a healthy environment or a strong economy." — B.C. Finance Minister, Carole Taylor
  • B.C. Throne Speech, February 13, 2007 — "Voluntary regimes have not worked. In 2007, British Columbia will take concerted provincial action to halt and reverse the growth in greenhouse gases. ... The more timid our response is, the harsher the consequences will be."
  • B.C. Climate Action Legislation, November 2007 — "This act puts into law the most aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets in North America and makes our carbon neutral government commitment legally binding," said Premier Campbell. "The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act will be marked as a turning point in confronting global warming and protecting the environment for future generations."

2. B.C.'s Carbon tax is Essential: Pricing carbon emissions is central to an effective climate change plan.

  • Pricing carbon emissions through a carbon tax is supported by the world's leading climate change policy experts and endorsed by several international working groups including the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • "The most effective way to address problems related to carbon consumption is with a carbon tax. With a carbon tax, we can have a cleaner environment, a stronger economy, and a brighter future for our children." 70 B.C. economists, in a letter to Carol Taylor, B.C. Minister of Finance November 1, 2007.(1)
  • In 2008, over 200 of Canada's top economists wrote federal political leaders urging carbon pricing as a core strategy stating "Canada needs to act on climate change now". (2)
  • A 2008 groundbreaking study by one of Canada's leading economic firms concluded that Canada's economy can grow by almost 20 percent in the next decade while the country reduces its greenhouse gas pollution to 25 percent below the 1990 level. To achieve the emission target Canada would require a significant price on global warming (carbon) emissions as well as targeted regulations and investments to expand the use of clean technology. The study shows Canada can take decisive action and continue to enjoy strong net job growth and other economic benefits. By 2020, Canadians would save more than $5.5 billion each year at the gas pump because of more efficient vehicles, better public transit and shorter commutes. (3)

3. Economic Studies Show a Carbon Price Spurs Innovation, Investment and Jobs

Huge economic opportunities are being created in the low-carbon, clean energy industry as more countries and jurisdictions with large economies move forward with laws and policies to reduce global warming.

  • President Obama has committed to invest US $150 billion in clean energy solutions over the next decade. More than US $58 billion ($73 billion CDN) of this commitment was passed in the 2009 U.S. economic stimulus package. (4)
  • Globally, future energy needs are expected to total over US$20 trillion between now and 2030. (5)
  • The most comprehensive economic study on climate change, authored by the former chief economist of the World Bank, projects the global market for low-carbon energy technologies will be worth at least US$500 billion annually and perhaps much more by 2050. (6)
  • B.C. could establish a competitive advantage in North America as an innovator and developer of clean, renewable energy and transportation technologies if we act now. But a delay in implementing a carbon price signal on emissions creates many risks including higher cumulative emissions, increased economic costs, and a greater likelihood that B.C. will fall behind other jurisdictions and become less innovative and competitive in the clean energy economy.

    4. The B.C. Government Committed to Investment of $4.75 Billion Dollars in New Provincial Funding in B.C.'s Transit Systems by 2020.
  • To put B.C.'s transit plan on-track to achieve a faster, more reliable transit system, B.C. should invest an average $396 million per year in transit infrastructure above and beyond pre-existing commitments such as the Canada Line Skytrain project.
  • Additional funding for transit and green goods movement (like more efficient rail) infrastructure can be secured by redirecting investment away for from environmentally harmful infrastructure like general purpose highway expansion that leads to urban sprawl.
  • In 2007, B.C. passed a law to reduce B.C.'s greenhouse gas emission by 33 percent by 2020. All new government infrastructure projects should require a transparent analysis of the global warming emission implications and life-cycle costs clearly demonstrating these projects will help achieve B.C.'s legally binding climate change goals.

5. The B.C. 2008 Budget Promised $1 billion Over Four Years for Climate Change Action Including Operating and Capital Expenditures and Tax Incentives for Initiatives and Energy-efficient Programs for Homes, Businesses and Vehicles

  • To create a green economy and compete in the new green economy, B.C. should set ambitious targets and timelines to transform the province into a global leader in the manufacturing and use of renewable energy systems including solar and wind power. Targets should be achieved by applying long-term provincial financial incentives for renewable energy generation. For effective results, this strategy should be combined with strong workforce training programs and access to low-interest financing so Canadians can apply a wide variety of renewable-energy technologies in their homes, public spaces and businesses. (7)
  • Industrialized countries such as Germany that have been taking the lead in renewable energy are already experiencing significant economic benefits and jobs while achieving large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In the past two years, Germany's renewable-energy sector has grown nearly 50 per cent and now employs over 236,000 workers. In 2006 alone, the deployment and operation of renewable energy technologies in Germany generated $36 billion and is estimated to have reduced Germany's greenhouse gas emissions by 44 million tonnes, equivalent of removing 8.8 million cars off the roads. (8)
  • President Obama recently announced an investment of over $73 billion CDN for renewable energy and energy efficiency as part of his recent "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009", making it a key element of his administration's plans for economic renewal. If the B.C. government fails to act decisively in the upcoming budget, it risks being left behind in the emerging North American green economy. (9)

Ian Bruce, Climate Change Specialist, ibruce@davidsuzuki.org, Cell: 604-306-5095

(1) http://www.econ.ubc.ca/green/carbon.doc
(2) New Release (October 6, 2008) 220+ of Canada's leading economists call for action on climate change
(3) M. K. Jaccard and Associates (2008). See: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/publications/reports/2008/deep-reductions-strong-growth/index.php
(4) http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/energy_and_environment/
(5) United Nations (2007) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group III
(6) UK HM Treasury (2006) The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review
(7) Renewable energy incentives known as "feed-in tariffs" have made Denmark, Germany and Spain leading global renewable energy generators, manufacturers, and exporters.
(8) German Federal Ministry for the Environment (2007). Renewable Energy Sources Act — Progress Report 2007. (Available at: www.erneuerbare-energien.de)
(9) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Recovery_and_Reinvestment_Act_of_2009#

Energy_.28.2458_billion.29 and based on $1.25 CDN per USD.

February 17, 2009